Terps trying to get their edge back
First loss ‘a great learning experience’ Durkin hopes to use against Minnesota
COLLEGE PARK — After his team’s emotional win at Central Florida last month, Maryland football coach DJ Durkin talked about looking into the eyes of his players on the sideline during the second overtime period and seeing a collective glare of confidence shooting back.
Early in Saturday’s 38-14 loss at Penn State — the Terps’ first defeat of the season and Durkin’s first as a head coach — confusion replaced confidence on those faces as the Nittany Lions scored on their first possession and eventually took over the game.
“Our response to adversity was not what it had been earlier in the year, for sure,” Durkin said at his weekly news conference Tuesday. “Some of those things then snowballed.”
Durkin was anxious to see how his team would respond when it returned to the practice field Monday in preparation for Saturday’s home game against Minnesota (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten Conference). After what he called a “great practice,” Durkin believes a different team will show up for Maryland (4-1, 1-1) against the Golden Gophers.
“We responded the way you hoped they would and think they would,” Durkin said. “It’s all about how you bounce back, how you respond, and that’s life. We just got hit in the mouth. I’m looking forward to go back out and start swinging again and see how we respond.” Saturday, noon TV: ESPNU Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM Line: Maryland by 61⁄
Senior cornerback, returner and captain Will Likely said the Terps’ hunger never shrank during Maryland’s fast start to the season.
“When you win, most people are not satisfied with just winning one game; you want to win all you can. That’s why you play the sport,” Likely said. “I think we still have a chip on our shoulder; we always do. That’s a setback, and we’ve just got to bounce back.”
Both teams should enter Saturday’s game at Maryland Stadium with a sense of urgency. Minnesota is on a two-game losing streak, with its goals beginning to vanish after last week’s 14-7 home loss to Iowa. The Terps aim to always play with an urgent mindset.
“The way Coach Durkin runs his program, there’s always a sense of urgency, whether you win or lose,” sophomore center Brendan Moore said. “It’s not an option.”
With the news Tuesday that Minnesota will play without starting quarterback and fifth-year senior Mitch Leidner (concussion), and that redshirt junior Conor Rhoda, a former walk-on, will make his first start, there’s a sense that the Terps can make a quick recovery.
A victory would put Maryland on the brink of becoming bowl-eligible as it gets ready to play a home game the following week against Michigan State, the biggest disappointment in the Big Ten, and perhaps the country, this season.
But just as he did before the Terps’ season Minnesota quarterback Conor Rhoda, a former walk-on, will make his first start Saturday. opener against Howard, Durkin won’t allow them to look past any opponent. While Maryland didn’t overlook Penn State, the Terps might have come into Beaver Stadium a tad cocky.
“When you win, you get too comfortable,” senior wide receiver Teldrick Morgan (Meade) said Tuesday. “I’m not saying that we got too comfortable, but when you get that first loss, now you know how it feels, and you don’t ever want to go back to that feeling.”
Durkin said watching tape of Saturday’s game only fortified what he saw on the sideline in real time.
Durkin called the loss to the Nittany Lions “a great learning experience” that he hopes to use against the Golden Gophers as well as later in the season.
“A team is going to hit you in the mouth every now and again, and what you’ve got to do is come together, come tighter, trust in your teammates, and trust in the scheme and what’s going on and not try to more than what your job entails,” he said. “There was far too much of that going on.”
After Penn State scored on its opening drive, Maryland tied the game briefly. The Nittany Lions jumped ahead by 10 by halftime — they followed a touchdown by the Terps in the final minutes with one of their own with 15 seconds left in the second quarter— and never again were threatened.
It was not just what Durkin saw on the faces of his players that bothered him.
“We didn’t play at our effort level in this past game,” he said. “In those first four games, you see a team playing really hard out there on the field. Every game we got a little bit better, played a little bit harder. Effort makes up for mistakes, too, and we didn’t give ourselves that opportunity.”
NOTES: Durkin announced that he has suspended redshirt freshman linebacker Isaiah Davis for Saturday’s game. Davis, the younger brother of former Terps standout and current Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Sean Davis, was ejected Saturday after a late hit on kicker Joey Julius on the opening kickoff of the second half. … Durkin also announced that senior running back Trey Edmunds, the son of former Maryland star tight end Ferrell Edmunds, will have surgery this week to repair a broken right foot. He is expected to miss several weeks.