Victory is a ‘big boost,’ but Terps not getting too high
COLLEGE PARK — As DJ Durkin was about to finish his postgame news conference after the Maryland football team’s 2817 victory over Michigan State at Maryland Stadium on Saturday night, a reporter asked the firstyear coach whether the comeback win had revived his team’s season heading into its most difficult part of the schedule.
Durkin smiled, and had a question of his own.
“Was the season dead?” he asked. “I get that, I understand that. As a fan or a follower of college football or in the media or whatever, I get it. It’s easy. You look at a schedule and then [say], ‘OK, win, win, loss, loss.’ You go right down it, and this is what’s going to happen. We don’t live in that world. It may sound like coach-speak, but it’s not.
“We did everything we could to go win this game. We’re going to get a couple of hours’ sleep tonight and come in tomorrow and figure out every way possible that we can to go win the next one. Whatever’s after that, I don’t know. The trick is getting your
players to think that way, to believe that way. And they’re starting to understand more and more of how that works.”
On the brink of becoming bowleligible, Maryland (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten Conference) plays at Indiana (3-4,1-3) on Saturday.
It will be followed by three games against possible top-10 teams: a trip to No. 2 Michigan on Nov. 5; a home game Nov. 12 against Ohio State, which dropped to No. 6 after losing at Penn State on Saturday night; and a visit to No. 7 Nebraska on Nov. 19.
Understanding how the Terps followed a 4-0 start with back-to-back blowout defeats by the No. 24 Nittany Lions in State College, Pa., and at home to Minnesota, Durkin was careful to make sure neither he nor his players think too far in the future.
“A big win can hurt you just as bad as a bad loss,” Durkin said. “It’s all about a mindset. You sit there and think, ‘Now we’ve arrived,’ and that can hurt you, too. It’s all about wiping the slate clean. It gets back to square one. No one cares what you did last week.”
Fifth-year senior quarterback Perry Hills, who returned after missing the game against Minnesota with an injured shoulder, completed 21 of 27 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns Saturday against Michigan State. He’s bought in to Durkin’s in-the-moment philosophy.
“One of the things I’ve been doing this year is try not to look too far ahead,” Hills said. “Don’t worry about the past. Just live in the moment, just be where your feet are.”
Durkin acknowledged the significance of the win, despite the fact that that perennial power Michigan State (2-5, 0-4) has lost five straight games a season after reaching the College Football Playoff.
Just as he did after the Terps beat Central Florida in overtime in Orlando last month, Durkin conceded there was something special about Saturday’s win.
“I think it’s another programbuilding win,” Durkin said. “We’re building for the long term for sure. Every opportunity to get one of those, it’s another building block to where we are going. It’s another stepping stone. It’s great. You’ve just got to keep taking them one at a time.”
Maryland players understood the victory’s significance in the context of the season and the future.
“We want to win every game, [especially] the ones at home, because you don’t ever want anybody to come in and take our home, so today was like a must-win because we were at home and it was like a big game that we wanted to accomplish and win,” said sophomore wide receiver D.J. Moore, who had a 36-yard touchdown catch.
While Moore said the win over the Spartans was a “big boost” to the confidence the team had going into the game, senior linebacker Shane Cockerille (Gilman) acknowledged that the back-to-back losses had started to affect the team’s psyche. A victory restored some of the feeling the Terps had earlier in the season.
“We had our downs, two straight losses, but Coach Durkin was talking about controlling the controllables — attitude, effort and enthusiasm, stuff people can’t take away,” Cockerille said. “That was huge tonight. Everyone played with a lot of energy, played for each other.”
Cockerille, who finished with a career-high 15 tackles, called it “a huge win” but didn’t think there would be much of an emotional hangover.
“Obviously, we’re going to celebrate tonight with each other,” he said. “As the week goes on, you can’t look back and you can’t look too far forward.”
Maryland coach DJ Durkin and reserve quarterback Caleb Rowe celebrate after a first-half touchdown in Saturday night’s game.
Maryland quarterback Perry Hills throws a pass in the first half Saturday. Hills was 21-for-27 for 200 yards and two touchdowns.