Vic­tory is a ‘big boost,’ but Terps not get­ting too high

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

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.”

GAIL BUR­TON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mary­land coach DJ Durkin and re­serve quar­ter­back Caleb Rowe cel­e­brate af­ter a first-half touch­down in Satur­day night’s game.

GAIL BUR­TON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mary­land quar­ter­back Perry Hills throws a pass in the first half Satur­day. Hills was 21-for-27 for 200 yards and two touch­downs.

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