Maryland football’s season is almost over, but the team still has something to prove

Coach Mike Locksley on the sideline during Maryland football's 38-7 loss to Michigan on Nov. 2, 2019. (Julia Nikhinson/The Diamondback)

Only about a half-hour removed from Maryland football’s 73-14 loss to Ohio State, Keandre Jones’ thoughts began shifting toward the future, beyond the flight home from Columbus and the 24-hour window he and his teammates are given to dwell on the results — win or lose — after a game.

How would he get over a game like that? Hitting the weight room, the linebacker replied. Going to practice, flushing the No. 2 Buckeyes from his mind and locking in on Nebraska.

Running backs Javon Leake and Tayon Fleet-Davis felt the same. Saturday’s 59-point defeat happened. There’s no changing that. The Terps fell to 3-7, ensuring they’d miss out on a bowl game for a third straight season.

But those players knew they’d have two full weeks to prepare for the Cornhuskers, two full weeks to separate themselves from the lopsided result. The season is all but over, yet the final two games are still meaningful to the team, for pride if nothing else. After five straight defeats, the players feel the bye week heading into a matchup with Nebraska can help end the year on an upturn.

“Keep swinging, keep fighting,” Jones said. “We’ve still got a lot more to prove in the two games left.”

[Read more: Ohio State racked up 52 unanswered points, but Maryland football is used to trailing early]

As one of the players on Maryland’s leadership council, Jones said he plans to lead by example. He wants to increase the intensity in practice, despite having a week off from game action.

For Jones, Saturday’s result ensures his college career will end Nov. 30 in East Lansing, Michigan. While he has a dream to play at the next level, the graduate transfer has two guaranteed games left. Perhaps having the end in sight — for Jones and for others — will add another element to matchups with the Cornhuskers and Michigan State.

But before then, it comes down to moving past the blowout in Columbus.

“Man, it’s definitely hard,” Leake said. “But you’ve just got to get past it. That’s part of being a football player. You know you’re not going to win all of them, so we just can’t dwell on this.”

[Read more: Maryland football continues downward spiral as No. 3 Ohio State wreaks havoc in 73-14 rout]

When the Terps’ first bye week rolled around after losing to Temple on Sept. 14, the extended break figured to give the team time to reset and prepare for Penn State. But when the No. 12 Nittany Lions came to Maryland Stadium, a 59-0 rout ensued. The Terps have continued losing, with a win over Rutgers the lone positive result.

Once again, though, a bye week is seen as an opportunity to get healthy, work on the basics and prepare early for Nebraska. Fleet-Davis saw pass protection as an issue against the Ohio State — Maryland allowed seven sacks — while the defense struggled to get off the field on third downs.

In any 59-point loss, there’s plenty to improve upon. The trick will be making those changes before the Cornhuskers arrive in College Park.

“It really gives you a chance to get healthy, get back to some fundamentals,” coach Mike Locksley said. “But also to take a look at what you’re doing system-wise, you know, schematically — self-scouting offensively, defensively and special teams — to see if you’re doing anything to allow people to read your mail, per se, because of what you’ve shown.”

So while the Terps’ trip to play the Buckeyes turned into a debacle that included the most points it has allowed since 1913, there are still two games remaining. And despite those results hardly counting — bowl eligibility is out of reach — it comes down to pride, finishing on an upswing rather than rolling over.

“Come back next week ready to work,” Fleet-Davis said. “Even though we didn’t get the outcome we want, we know that we’re a good team deep down inside, and we know that we can turn this around.”

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