Bowl Cut

Sur­pris­ing Mary­land on verge of a post­sea­son ap­pear­ance

The Star Democrat - - SPORTS -

COL­LEGE PARK (AP) — Af­ter go­ing 3-9 last sea­son and win­ning only one Big Ten game, Mary­land now needs one vic­tory to be­come bowl el­i­gi­ble.

First-year coach DJ Durkin in­sists that’s not a topic of dis­cus­sion in the locker room. That doesn’t mean the Ter­rap­ins (5-2, 2-2) are obliv­i­ous to the sig­nif­i­cance of Satur­day’s game at In­di­ana (3-4, 1-3).

“It hon­estly feels re­ally good, get­ting an op­por­tu­nity at In­di­ana to get that sixth win,” se­nior quar­ter­back Perry Hills said. “Es­pe­cially af­ter what we went through last year.”

A year ago, Hills threw 13 in­ter­cep­tions and only eight touch­down pass- es. Coach Randy Ed­sall was fired in the mid­dle of the sea­son, and Mary­land lost eight straight be­fore beat­ing Rut­gers in the sea­son fi­nale.

This sea­son, Hills leads the Big Ten in com­ple­tion per­cent­age (66.4) and pass­ing ef­fi­ciency (151.8). More im­por­tantly, he’s got eight TD passes and two in­ter­cep­tions.

"It's not some­thing we've ever talked about. We're just try­ing to be the best team we can be week-to-week. When you take care of things that way, you find your­self where you want to be at the end of the sea­son." DJ Durkin Mary­land head coach, on team's bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity

His value to the team can be mea­sured by what Mary­land does — or can’t do — without him. Hills ex­ited late in the sec­ond quar­ter at Penn State on Oct. 8, and the Ter­rap­ins went score­less in the sec­ond half of a 38-14 de­feat. He sat out the en­tire game the fol­low­ing week, a

31-10 loss against vis­it­ing Min­nesota.

In his re­turn last Satur­day night, Hills went 21 for 27 for 200 yards and two scores in a 28-17 vic­tory over Michi­gan State.

“Perry has al­ways been a leader by ex­am­ple with his work ethic and his tough­ness,” Durkin said. “Now, he’s play­ing suc­cess­fully at the quar­ter­back po­si­tion. We have al­ways be­lieved that Perry can get the job

done. He’s had some ups and downs through­out his ca­reer, so it’s great to see him play­ing with con­fi­dence.”

Hills has twice torn his ACL and been in and out of the start­ing lineup be­fore get­ting to this point. Now, as the Ter­rap­ins stand on the cusp of bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity, he’s poised to check that ac­com­plish­ment off the list.

“Ob­vi­ously, we have goals as a team. The first step

would be to get those six wins,” Hills said. “Then, a Big Ten cham­pi­onship and a na­tional cham­pi­onship.”

The lat­ter two ob­jec­tives might be out of reach this sea­son, but Durkin hopes the team is headed in that di­rec­tion. He’s uti­lized more than dozen true fresh­men with de­signs of build­ing a squad ca­pa­ble of com­pet­ing with Ohio State, Michi­gan and the other Big Ten pow­er­houses.

“These fresh­men don’t look out of place,” Durkin said. “We’re build­ing this thing for the long term. This play­ing time is valu­able mov­ing for­ward. We’re ro­tat­ing guys at ev­ery po­si­tion. That’s how you build a pro­gram the right way.”

That could be one rea­son why Durkin isn’t fo­cused on the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of gain­ing bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity at In­di­ana.

“It’s not some­thing we’ve ever talked about,” he said. “We’re just try­ing to be the best team we can be weekto-week. When you take care of things that way, you find your­self where you want to be at the end of the sea­son.”

The point is, why stop now?

“We missed the mark last year, but I don’t think our goal ends at six wins,” guard Mike Min­ter said. “We want to win ev­ery one of them.”

AP PHOTO

Mary­land quar­ter­back Perry Hills (11) cel­e­brates his touch­down with team­mates Mike Min­ter, left, and Avery Ed­wards in the first half of an Oct. 1 game against Pur­due in Col­lege Park. Com­ing off a sea­son in which he threw 13 in­ter­cep­tions, Hills has done a mas­ter­ful job of run­ning the Terps’ high-pow­ered of­fense, and has the team on the cusp of a bowl berth.

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