DETROIT – It would be easy enough to look at Maryland’s just-completed football season and give the Terrapins a hearty pat on the shell. That’s not DJ Durkin’s perspective. Not his full perspective.
Maryland made mistake after mistake after mistake against Boston College in Monday’s Quick Lane Bowl but was in the game until an eighth and final sack of quarterback Perry Hills sealed a 36-30 loss. The Terrapins were down 23 points after running one offensive play in the third quarter but answered with consecutive long touchdown passes.
There was plenty to like in how Maryland played. There was plenty not to like from the Terrapins. When your team is as young as Maryland is and it finishes 6-7 after winning just three games last season, the future is positive. The here and now isn’t as rosy.
“There’s plenty of positives to point at but, I don’t know. We go into every game trying to win every game,” said Durkin after the loss. It’s tough to feel good after a loss. Durkin did his best.
“We’re 6-and-7 now, so that’s certainly not what we’re shooting for.” Durkin said. “There’s a lot of positives. There’s a lot of guys who got better, who played a lot of football for us that were maybe not ready yet to play but we had to play them. The good part moving forward is they have that experience under their belt. There’s certainly a lot to grow from and move forward with our guys, understand our system and how we do things.”
That’s the kind of attitude it will take to give Maryland a shot at becoming a consistent contender in the Big Ten East. The division is loaded with blue bloods Ohio State, Michigan and now Penn State’s revival. It will take more than one down year to dismiss Mark Dantonio and Michigan State. Indiana, despite the Kevin Wilson saga, has gotten better. Rutgers … well, let’s just leave Rutgers alone.
Durkin turns 39 on Jan. 15. In coaching circles, he’s as young as his team is among its competition. It’s that youth and energy that brings promise to the program.
“This program can definitely go up,” Hills said. “The foundation that coach Durkin and all of the coaches have put in place, there definitely is nowhere it can go but up.”
Hills had a rare day on Monday. The most improved aspect of his game this season was his ability to hold onto the ball. He was involved in all four takeaways by Boston College. Hills was intercepted once and lost three fumbles, one at his own goal line that Boston College recovered for a touchdown and another on the Boston College goal line that denied Maryland any points. He mishandled another snap from center that threw off the timing of a fourth-and-1 play from the Boston College 40-yard line in the fourth quarter.
Yet through it all, Maryland never let Boston College feel comfortable.
That’s a credit to Durkin.
“Enthusiasm every day,” is how senior wide receiver Teldrick Morgan described Durkin. “Make sure you go your hardest. Every day he wants us to be our best, and he will get it out of us.”
Freshmen and sophomores heavily influence Maryland’s roster. There was a post-game question of why junior linebacker Shane Cockerille had been declared ineligible and didn’t play. Durkin turned the focus around on redshirt freshman Isaiah Davis, who tied for team-high honors with seven tackles. Sophomore running back Ty Johnson did what he’s been doing all season, breaking big runs to power the offense.
Johnson needed just 15 carries to produce 159 yards. He scored on runs of 62 and 30 yards in the first half after Boston College had taken leads of 16-0 and 23-7.
Durkin sees all that potential for the future. He’s not letting it cloud his knowledge of where his team is now. Because of that, Maryland has a chance to be more than just a nice story this year.
“Yeah, there are plenty of positives,” Durkin said, “but the end result is not what we want.”