Leading up to Saturday's demoralizing 20-3 to loss visiting Syracuse, the coaches and players on Maryland's football team indicated that their goals were still intact and achievable -- that their season was still worth saving.
While that sentiment still lingered on Tuesday at the team's media luncheon, it certainly seemed like Saturday's drubbing also served as a reality check, or at the very least as an indicator that the focus for the remaining three games has shifted.
"I think we were a little more disappointed [compared to past losses]," said quarterback C.J. Brown. "We felt confident going into that game and to come out and not execute like that, especially on the offensive side of the ball, including myself, I felt that we were down."
Brown threw two interceptions and lost one fumble, all in Syracuse territory. The Terps crossed midfield on eight of 13 possessions - a number that, according to Randy Edsall, most coaches would be thrilled with - only to put a grand total of three points on the scoreboard.
Yes, the Terps plan on showing up for their final three games. And yes, they're still desperate to win at least one of them to lock up bowl eligibility in Edsall's third year in the driver's seat in College Park. But after this injury-riddled stretch in which Maryland has dropped four of five, Edsall sounded on Tuesday like he may have started to peek towards 2014.
"We're frustrated," he said. "We all are. The players are frustrated. The coaches are frustrated. But we have to remember that we're making strides."
"The thing is, when you take a look at our team, it's a very young team. We have made improvements. We're talented. We're going to continue to get more talent. We don't have the depth we had, and again, I think some people got ahead of themselves a little bit after the first four games."
Some of those people were his young players, who were apparently cozying up to their own press clippings when the team was sitting pretty at 4-0. That is what the Edsall calls "cheating the process," and he has since instructed his team to resist reading about the team.
"I remember people telling me, 'Oh, you've got this turned around,'" he said. "Well no, you don't turn it around in four games. It's a process we're building here, and the building process is going on."
"I've got to look at what we're doing long-term here. This isn't the short term."
It's hard to imagine that was the mindset of his coach or his players two months ago. In fact, after Saturday's game Edsall sat before the press a confused coach. He toted a laundry list of his players' physical mistakes and had no qualms with pointing out that they directly hindered their ability to win games. On Tuesday, he retreated from that stance.
"[The coaches] can always call better plays," he said. "Not every play is going to work. When they don't work, there was probably a play we could have called or a defense we could have called that is better. This is a collective effort between players and coaches. It's not just about players. It's about all of us."
So if the emphasis has indeed migrated from winning now to long-term improvement, as Edsall implied on Tuesday, it begs the question of where this program is headed under the third year coach.
Despite the team's slide, the Edsall vowed not to panic. As the face of the program, his composure is paramount. But equally important is the coach and his team providing evidence that this ship is headed in the right direction. So where is that evidence?
"We have one more win now than a year ago," Edsall said. "We have talented players. It's unfortunate that those guys got hurt, your playmakers that you were building your offense around."
"People don't like to be patient. But what we're going to do is continue to work the way we're working. Continue to get better. Continue to recruit and develop. And we're going to get where we want to go. It might not be as fast for some people, but we'll get there as fast as we can go without cheating the process."