ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The last time Chase Winovich saw D.J. Durkin, Durkin was leaving the Michigan football facility on a December morning.
It didn’t cross Winovich’s mind as to where Durkin was headed. It appeared to be another routine exit.
Until it wasn’t. Durkin was leaving, but he wasn’t heading home.
Saturday marked Durkin’s return to Michigan, more than 11 months after he took the job as Maryland’s head coach in December 2015. Durkin spent less than a year in Ann Arbor as the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator, and Winovich was one of the last people to cross paths with Durkin on Michigan’s campus.
Winovich, a junior defensive end, reminded the first-year Terrapins coach of that after Michigan’s 59-3 rout Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
“I saw him after the game and I said, ‘Hey, Coach, thanks for saying goodbye to me,’ and I said it sarcastically,” Winovich said. “He coached my brother at Bowling Green, so I knew him as a kid, and I saw him, when he was leaving and I didn’t know he was leaving at the time. It was hush-hush.”
Not Bowling Green. Leaving Michigan for Maryland. And, again, Winovich had no idea where Durkin was headed that December morning.
“I was walking into the building and he was leaving the building and I was like, ‘Hey, what’s up, Coach Durkin?’ and he was like, ‘Hey, what’s up, Chase?’” Winovich said. “It was casual.”
Two hours later, Winovich saw an announcement on ESPN that Durkin — who helped shape Michigan into one of the nation’s top defenses in 2015 — was about to be introduced as Maryland’s coach.
“He’s at a press conference, in Maryland, two hours later!” Winovich said. “I was like, ‘What the heck?’ I was perplexed.”
Under Durkin, the Terrapins are one win from bowl eligibility, but Michigan anticipated Durkin’s return.
“We knew the coaching staff at Maryland, and we knew (Durkin) was going to have his players fired up and coming in ready to play,” Michigan RB De’Veon Smith said. “We were going to approach it as playing our game, but we knew we were going to have to play with a chip on our shoulders, because we know what type of mentality Coach Durkin brings and we were going to have to go forth and really just put them down in the dirt.”
Michigan did that, accruing 660 yards of offense, holding Maryland to 78 yards rushing and knocking out QB Perry Hills early in the second quarter.
Much in the same way Durkin left Winovich perplexed, the loss left Durkin just as perplexed, particularly about the state of his program.
“We’re a fragile team,” Durkin said after Maryland’s worst loss of the season. “There’s a lot of things we need to do to grow up as a program.”
While Michigan didn’t give Maryland much mercy on the field, Winovich empathized with the Terrapins afterwards.
“We know his true style and how aggressive he is,” Winovich said. “I feel bad for his players in the locker room, after that win, but I know he’s a great coach and they’ll be back. They’re coming back with a vengeance. Next year, and next week. He’ll have them ready.”