If last season’s primetime opening victory/knobtease against Miami was indicative of how the 2011 Maryland football season would go, then the 7-6 nail-biter over William & Mary should give us plenty of hope for 2012.

It was far from pretty and it was against a team that was being paid a quarter million dollars to be there, but it was still the first time in eleven months that the Terps got to sing “Maryland will win!” after, you know, Maryland actually winning.

For the experienced players, Saturday was catharsis. The game was in question virtually the entire time, with the defense having to dig in during the second half while Justus Pickett earning back his projected starting job at running back. There were turnovers, missed field goals, and all the other things that made last season so miserable.

Mistakes aside, when the clock struck zero, Maryland had won the most winnable game on their 2012 schedule. They leaped into the student section and belted out their victory song. It’s what should’ve happened, and maybe it shouldn’t have ever been in question, but it did not make the taste any less sweet.

It’s such a burnt out cliche’, but sometime winning truly is a habit. Maryland can take the momentum from the 4th quarter comeback orchestrated by a now-blooded Perry Hills and travel to Temple with the taste of victory in their mouths. You’ll recall that last year’s third game of the season, a 31-7 Temple win at Byrd, was where the wheels really started to come off of the 2011 Terrapins. Current Baltimore Raven running back Bernard Pierce went for 151 and five (!) touchdowns against a Maryland defense that wouldn’t really stop the bleeding against an FBS opponent for the remainder of the year.

Depending on the number of scholarships William & Mary is carrying, the win may not even count toward bowl eligibility (it probably will, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves). Still, it pulls a massive weight off the shoulders of the new regime and the crop of twelve freshmen who saw action on Saturday. Temple is going to be much tougher than the Tribe, having waxed potential FBS Villanova 41-10 in their opener. Oh, and the game is in Philadelphia in an NFL stadium.

The tests will only keep coming for the young players, and the fire will only get hotter for Coach Rangoon, but having 1 in the “W” column eases the tension, at least until kickoff on Saturday.

Shell Game” is season-long a chronicle of Maryland football’s recovery from its disastrous 2011 campaign. The University of Maryland athletic department chose to deny our request for access. It was probably a wise move.