COLLEGE PARK, Md.>> Randy Edsall credited his players for helping him win his debut as Maryland’s coach.
Al Golden took all the blame for the loss in his first game at Miami.
Playing in front of a spirited sellout crowd in uniforms that were nearly as loud as the fans, Maryland beat short-handed Miami 32-24 Monday night in an Atlantic Coast Conference duel.
Edsall took over for Ralph Friedgen, who was fired after a 10-year run. Coming over from Connecticut, Edsall intends to make a good program into a great one.
He couldn’t have asked for a better start.
Danny O’Brien went 31 for 44 for 348 yards, Nick Ferrara kicked four field goals, and Maryland returned two turnovers for touchdowns in a rousing victory.
"It’s not about what I did. It’s what the kids did," Edsall said. "All I tried to do is come in and get them to believe that they could push themselves further than maybe they thought. They bought into the team concept."
Miami played without eight players suspended by the NCAA for accepting money from a booster. Those who didn’t make the trip included quarterback Jacory Harris, linebacker Sean Spence, and defensive linemen Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo.
Stephen Morris capably filled in for Harris, going 19 for 28 for 195 yards and running for a touchdown. But on a fourth-and-4 in the final minute, the sophomore threw an interception that Cameron Chism returned 54 yards to put the game out of reach with 39 seconds remaining.
The Hurricanes struggled defensively, allowing 311 yards and 19 first downs in the first half alone.
"There are a lot of things we have to fix on defense," Golden said. "Clearly you cannot give up that many yards, I don’t care who’s in the game."
Still, he put himself at fault for the loss.
"I get judged on how the team performs," Golden said. "I didn’t get the team to perform the way it needs to perform in terms of penalties and turnovers. The penalties (10 for 65 yards) we have to get fixed, starting with me and the coaches. And we’ll do that."
He expects the job to be easier when he’s got a full squad to work with.
"You just got to keep moving forward," he said. "We’ll get guys back now, and hopefully the further we get away from this game and the story breaking, we’ll be able to focus on ourselves. There are no excuses. We had enough talent here tonight and we didn’t do it."
The Terrapins emerged from the locker room with new white uniforms patterned after the state flag. They wore wild helmets spashed with red and white on the left side and black and yellow on the right, and the pattern continued to the shoulders.
As decreed by Edsall, there were no names on the back.
And, as he preached, Maryland used a team effort to win.
"It was an unbelievable experience because we were under so much pressure with the new coaching staff and with Friedgen gone," Ferrara said. "It was amazing to see how we could come together as a unit and win."
The seesaw contest came down to the closing minutes.
Soon after Danny O’Brien completed a 52-yard pass to Kevin Dorsey down the right sideline, Ferrara entered only one series after missing from 23 yards out. This one, however, was right down the middle for a 26-24 lead with 1:39 left.
Chism then provided the clincher.
A year ago, O’Brien went 9 for 28 for 134 yards in a 26-20 loss to the Hurricanes. In the rematch, he was 31 for 44 for 348 yards.
But Maryland couldn’t put the finish on several impressive drives. The Terps got to the Miami 11 or closer on six occasions, yet they scored only one touchdown and twice came away with nothing.
The Hurricanes took a 21-20 lead early in the third quarter on a 5-yard run by Morris. Maryland regained the lead when Ferrara kicked his third field goal to end a 14-play drive.
The pattern ended when Miami received three penalties, including two straight for delay of game, and had to punt.
O’Brien began moving the Terps in a march that bridged the third and fourth quarters. In the middle of the drive, a rain that began at halftime picked up in intensity.
Maryland managed to get a first-and-goal at the Miami 5, but could get no closer before Ferrara’s field goal try sailed to the right.
Morris then directed a 67-yard march that ended with a 30-yard field goal by Jake Wieclaw for a 24-23 lead with 4:01 remaining. Miami converted a fourth-and-1 on the drive and benefited from a questionable defensive holding call on Chism.
That, however, would be the Hurricanes’ final surge.
The Terrapins led 20-14 at halftime. After blowing a 10-0 advantage, Maryland moved back in front when Chism caused Mike James to fumble and defensive lineman Joe Vellano lumbered 30 yards for a score.
"We just made too many mistakes. You make that many mistakes, you can’t win," Golden said. "There are no moral victories. The things that we can control today, the penalties and the turnovers, we did not and it cost us the game."