The Maryland staff didn’t waste any time hitting the road following their arrival back in College Park, Md., Sept. 18. After reviewing film from the Terps’ 30-24 double-overtime victory against UCF the coaches promptly headed back out on the recruiting trail, taking advantage of the Terps’ bye week. Already, Maryland assistants have been spotted in Florida, Georgia and other southern locales, while they’re expected to spread out to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the Midwest later in the week.
Head coach D.J. Durkin, for his part, had a scheduled 10 a.m. conference call with reporters Sept. 19, but he too was busy attacking the trail. Durkin, who started his bye-week tour reconnecting with various high schools in the DMV, ended up dialing in in-between visits.
The coach’s mind, though, was likely on recruiting and delivering a pitch that’s become even more potent after his team’s 3-0 start. Now, instead of preaching potential, he, and his assistants for that matter, have actual results to back them up.
“It was a program builder for us coming out. To go on the road and get a win in college football, if you look there’s upsets about every week. … We’re really proud of our guys and their mindset,” Durkin said of the Terps’ gutsy victory in central Florida Sept. 17. “Teams that don’t have belief in one another find ways to lose those games, and teams that do [believe in one another] find a way to win them. … We’re going to get in those moments later in the year, and the schedule is going to get tougher and tougher… But our guys have been through those moments together and believe in one another. They’re really buying in.
“There were plenty of things to clean up from the tape and plenty of things we could have done better. But to know our team has that in them, there were moments there where we had to fight through some stuff. And our team executed in them.”
The latter includes, first and foremost, the game-winning touchdown courtesy of backup quarterback Tyrrell “Piggy” Pigrome. After replacing injured starter Perry Hills, who hurt his shoulder, in the second overtime, Pigrome took his lone snap and scampered 24 yards for a touchdown.
“For Piggy to come in the game and do that, if you know him it’s not shocking,” Durkin said. “You wouldn’t know if it was a spring practice or a double-overtime game with a sellout crowd. He’s as cool as can be… The ability he has and the demeanor he has makes him a great player.”
Naturally, Durkin was asked about the possibility of Pigrome assuming a larger role, or maybe even supplanting Hills when the team returns to action Oct. 1 against Purdue. The headman didn’t completely dispel the notion, keeping to his oft-stated mantra that each player and each position is evaluated on a week-to-week basis.
He noted that both Hills and Pigrome “have done a great job” thus far, pointing to the fact neither has turned the ball over. (Maryland is one of only three teams in the FBS without a turnover so far).
“But we’re going to keep getting Piggy ready,” acknowledged Durkin, who called Hills ‘as tough as they come’ and labeled his health status ‘day to day.’ “He’s one play away from [being in the game].”
Speaking of injuries, Durkin said safety Denzel Conyers, who appeared to suffer a leg injury late during the UCF game, will have an MRI Sept. 19. The coach didn’t indicate how serious the ailment was, but he did say, “Denzel is doing good.”
Two other Terps with questionable statuses after Central Florida were BUCK Melvin Keihn and receiver Jahrvis Davenport, neither of whom made the trip. Durkin didn’t delve deep into their respective situations, except to say they were involved in “minor incidents” and they’re “definitely in the plans moving forward.”
In addition to Keihn’s and Davenport’s imminent returns after the bye, running back Wes Brown will also be suiting up for the first time this fall. The senior runner has completed his three-game suspension and will be in the rotation when UMD takes the field against Purdue.
“Wes returning definitely adds another weapon for us in the backfield. He’s a really good football player, and he’s one of the leaders of our team. He’ll definitely be in the mix there with those guys,” Durkin said. “He helps us and makes us stronger. We really benefit from a bunch of guys believing in the team and spreading [the ball around]. The running back position is a strength of ours, and we get stronger with Wes.”
One concern Durkin addressed was Maryland’s defense, which surrendered 455 total yards against UCF. The Knights’ up-tempo attack seemed to leave UMD winded at times, with defenders slow to react on a couple occasions.
“I thought we played really well for the most part. [UCF] had some good plays and a lot of those were broken plays. Their quarterback did a good job of keeping plays alive. That’s really where they made their yardage,” Durkin said. “Our secondary did a good job … in the positions we put them in. But we’ve got to do a better job with a mobile quarterback, keeping him in the pocket and making him throw from the pocket and to throw on time. It’s hard to defend downfield when [quarterbacks] have eight, nine seconds. That’s a long time. But I thought our guys did well. It was a hot, humid night, and we played a lot of snaps.”
Note: Durkin also praised punter Wade Lees, one of the unsung heroes Sept. 17. Through three games, Lees has placed nine punts inside the 20-yard line and is averaging almost 39 yards per boot.
“He’s doing a great job for us and taken advantage of field position for the most part. The hidden yardage in the game has been huge for us. We always talk about that. Wade’s been a big part of [winning the hidden yardage battle],” Durkin said. “He’s a very competitive, hard working guy and he has an understanding how important [the hidden yardage] is for us. He’s learning every week and he’s been really good. I’m very pleased with Wade and what he’s done for us so far.
“He’s very willing, very coachable and he wants to be great at American football. He has a great future ahead of him.”