Durkin: QBs need more protection
Coach criticizes ‘O’ line after loss to Minnesota, Terps’ 2nd in a row
While remaining “very hopeful” that fifthyear senior Perry Hills will return for Saturday night’s home game against Michigan State, Maryland football coach DJ Durkin said Monday that the team’s offensive line has to do a better job of protecting whoever is playing quarterback for the Terps.
“We’ve got to get that guy time to throw the ball, more than what we’ve done,” Durkin said on his t el econference. “Even when we had some guys open down the field and all that, it’s been hard to get the ball to them because there’s not enough time.”
Hills sat out Saturday’s 31-10 defeat to Minnesota in College Park, the second straight loss for Maryland (4-2, 1-2). True freshman Tyrrell Pigrome, who took over when Hills Saturday, 7:30 p.m. TV: Big Ten Network Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM
reinjured his right shoulder in a 38-14 loss at Penn State the previous week, started in his place.
“We held him out of our game [against Minnesota] so that nothing further happened. He’s further along health-wise; that’ll be a day-to-day thing as we go throughout the week again,” Durkin said of Hills. “With the added rest time and not taking a hit on it, we’re much further along right now with it.”
It is also unclear whether senior cornerback and return specialist Will Likely will play against the Spartans, who have lost four straight games, the longest losing streak for Michigan State (2-4, 0-3) in 22 years. Likely injured his knee after muffing a punt early in the second quarter against Minnesota and didn’t return.
“Will is undergoing further tests,” Durkin said.
One of the most productive teams in the Big Ten Conference through the first month of the season, the Terps have watched their offense struggle the past two weeks. Maryland had a season-low 129 rushing yards against Minnesota after getting 170 on the ground at Penn State.
“I don’t know if we’ve gotten away from it, but teams have done some things to take that away and also not having a quarterback [with experience] for the last two weeks, that definitely changed things a little bit and affects us,” Durkin said.
“We’ve got to do a good job of managing that and overcoming that, but that’s part of the game. It’s kind of where we’re at.”
Pigrome led the Terps with 71 yards on 25 carries against Minnesota, while the team’s two top rushers, freshman Lorenzo Harrison and sophomore Ty Johnson, combined for just 55 yards on nine carries. Many of Pigrome’s runs came after his pass protection had broken down.
“Some of it was a breakdown in protection, some of it was him not having his eyes in the right place to make the proper read and being a little hesitant with things and then all of a sudden, the play breaks down,” Durkin said.
Aside from two interceptions — one of which was returned 82 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter — and a fumble on Maryland’s final possession, Pigrome was affected by a sloppy performance that included five holding calls among the team’s nine penalties.
Durkin understands the angst among the team’s fans at flashbacks of recent losing seasons the past two weeks. The first-year coach doesn’t believe the team’s collective confidence has been shattered, or even shaken, by the back-to-back blowout defeats.
“All the weeks are critical and we certainly don’t harp on or talk about the past here and whatever else,” Durkin said. “I think the guys believe in themselves, believe in what we’re doing. We’ve just got to execute and play better.
“We’ve got to go out and play with a sense of urgency and emotion and execute better. I think our guys will do that. The message got across to them clear and I anticipate we’ll have a great week of preparation, and it should be a great environment and a great opportunity for us this weekend.”
NOTE: An athletic department spokesman said that after staff members watched a tape of the game, senior defensive tackle Azubuike Ukandu (Towson High) was credited with three extra tackles against Minnesota, bringing the total to a team- and career-high 12.
Maryland coach DJ Durkin said Monday that he was “very hopeful” that quarterback Perry Hills, above, who sat out last week’s loss to Minnesota, would play against Michigan State.