Bat­tered Terps face another ranked foe

Durkin, play­ers try to stay up­beat af­ter record mar­gin for con­sec­u­tive losses

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

COL­LEGE PARK — When DJ Durkin first glanced at the 2016 Mary­land foot­ball sched­ule — pre­sum­ably be­fore tak­ing the of­fer to leave Michi­gan to be­come a first-time head coach — he knew the first three Satur­days in Novem­ber would be the team’s big­gest chal­lenge.

Two games into the month, the Terps are los­ing on a his­toric scale. Back-to-back de­feats to then-No. 3 Michi­gan and No. 5 Ohio State by a com­bined 121-6 — the largest mar­gin of de­feat in suc­ces­sive games in pro­gram history — have left Mary­land (5-5, 2-5 Big Ten Con­fer­ence) phys­i­cally bat­tered and emo­tion­ally drained go­ing into the last game of this tril­ogy. They play Satur­day at No. 19 Ne­braska (8-2, 5-2).

“Those games end up be­ing what they are, but they still count as one game, no mat­ter what the score was and what hap­pened,” Durkin said af­ter a 62-3 loss to the Buck­eyes. “We’re a .500 ball­club right now and we’ve got a chance to get above .500 this com­ing week and give our­selves an op­por­tu­nity to play in the post­sea­son, Satur­day, noon TV: ESPNews Ra­dio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Se­nior of­fen­sive tackle Michael Dunn ac­knowl­edged Satur­day af­ter Mary­land’s largest mar­gin of de­feat in a Big Ten game — eclips­ing the 59-3 loss to the Wolver­ines in Ann Ar­bor — that it was hard to watch the largest home crowd of the sea­son (48,090) dis­perse as the game went on.

“When it is 35-3, and you see the en­tire crowd kind of leav­ing, as a player it’s kind of tough to go out there with the same en­ergy that you do when it’s 0-0 at the be­gin­ning of the game,” Dunn said.

Asked howthe team can keep its morale up de­spite three straight losses and five de­feats in the past six games, Dunn said, “We just tell our­selves that we’ve got to keep fight­ing, we’ve got to keep push­ing. Keep the en­ergy level up. We’ve got to come out a lot faster, a lot bet­ter. It’s tough keep­ing morale up when it’s this lop­sided, but I trust us as a team, I trust our coaches, that we’ll be good.” Durkin tried to re­main up­beat, too. “We’ve got to fo­cus back in on what we’ve done to be suc­cess­ful and how we’ve done it and not worry about ev­ery­thing else,” Durkin said. “That will def­i­nitely be the mes­sage mov­ing for­ward this week. We cer­tainly have a lot to play for and some great op­por­tu­ni­ties com­ing up here th­ese next cou­ple of weeks.”

But the past few weeks have taken a toll on the Terps.

The of­fense might again be with­out fifth-year se­nior quar­ter­back Perry Hills, who, af­ter re-in­jur­ing his right shoul­der and be­ing side­lined in the sec­ond quar­ter at Michi­gan, was knocked out the game at Mary­land Sta­dium on Satur­day with a left shoul­der in­jury in the first quar­ter.

“Credit to him and his tough­ness; he’s a fighter,” Durkin said of Hills. “There’s a lot of guys that prob­a­bly wouldn’t have even been back in there at this point. It’s pretty well doc­u­mented and not a mat­ter of opin­ion that our of­fense runs a lot bet­ter when Perry is in there, and we’ve been pretty ef­fec­tive of­fen­sively when he’s been healthy.”

Fel­low fifth-year se­nior Caleb Rowe re­placed Hills for the rest of the first half. The Terps then used true fresh­man Tyrrell Pi­grome for the en­tire sec­ond half against the Buck­eyes. Durkin said Hills’ lat­est in­jury would be eval­u­ated ei­ther Sun­day or to­day.

The de­fense lost its leader, All-Big Ten se­nior cor­ner­back Will Likely, with a sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury last month against Min­nesota. It had no suc­cess stop­ping two of the league’s top quar­ter­backs, Michi­gan’s Wilton Speight and Ohio State’s J.T. Bar­rett, and will face hav­ing to do the same this week against Ne­braska’s Tommy Arm­strong Jr.

The de­fense gave up 581 yards to the Buck­eyes af­ter two straight weeks of al­low­ing 650 or more.

“Our de­fense cer­tainly has to play bet­ter no mat­ter who we’re play­ing,” Durkin said. “It’s about us, we’ve got to get bet­ter. There’s young guys, there’s hurt guys, it’s all ex­cuses. We’ve got to play harder, we’ve got to play faster, we’ve got to tackle bet­ter. We’ve got to get stops. We’re not get­ting off the field right now.”

There was also the first sig­nif­i­cant off-the-field trou­ble since Durkin took over. On Satur­day, the Terps an­nounced that three fresh­men — most no­tably run­ning back Loren­zoHar­ri­son, the team’s sec­ond-lead­ing rusher and per­haps its most con­sis­tent of­fen­sive per­former — were sus­pended in­def­i­nitely for a vi­o­la­tion of the stu­dent-ath­lete code of con­duct.

Har­ri­son is 57 yards short of break­ing La­Mont Jor­dan’s 19-year-old school record for most rush­ing yards by a fresh­man.

“What you do with peo­ple you love is you dis­ci­pline them and you hold them ac­count­able,” Durkin said. “That’s what you do with your own kids and cer­tainly guys on your team. Some­times that hap­pens, there are dis­trac­tions and as we keep grow­ing as a pro­gram, you’ve got to over­come those dis­trac­tions and then re­ally play at a higher level be­cause of them. That’s re­ally what you do to be­come a great team.”

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