COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Really, Maryland’s 50-7 Big Ten win over Purdue didn’t turn into a rout until after the Terrapins turned the ball over.
After three games, the Terrapins finally coughed up the football for the first time, and did it deep in their own territory to give the visiting Boilermakers a chance to break on top in the conference opener for both teams. Quarterback Perry Hills had an interception but the defense saved the day with a strong stand in the game’s first minutes.
“The defense did a fantastic job all day, they really bailed us out a couple of times,” said Hills, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. “After turning the ball over, you just have to kind of forget about it. You can’t let it get you down in the dumps.”
Well, the Maryland offense can’t feel too down in the dumps. They amassed 496 yards of total offense, a season high 400 yards on the ground, scored a half century and glided to a 29-0 halftime lead in a game many thought might be much tougher against Purdue (2-2). Maryland, meanwhile, moved to 4-0 for the first time since 2013, and just the third time since 1996.
Maryland coach DJ Durkin, who still doesn’t have a blemish on his head-coaching record (1-0 at Florida, too), perhaps summed up the sentiments of a happy homecoming crowd of 41,206. “There’s nothing better than when you get a hundred-plus grown men jumping and cheering together,” he said of his locker room. “That’s doesn’t just happen. For me, that’s it.”
For two weeks since the emotional double overtime road win at Central Florida, Durkin and his staff had been honing the Terrapins’ focus to this game. All week long he had subtle reminders posted in the locker room and around Gossett Team House – Big Ten logos – to remind the team this was the beginning of the important part of the schedule.
More importantly, though, Durkin and his staff again showed their coaching chops. On defense, they shut down the Big Ten’s second best passing offense and limited conference total yardage leader David Blough to just 106 yards, 228.3 below his average. Their leading rusher, Markell Jones had just 23 yards, 61.8 below his season average and part of just 10 cumulative yards on 27 rushes by the Boilermakers.
On offense, that rotation of runners averaged 8.6 yards per rush on a soggy surface behind a sterling effort up front, and great downfield blocking by the receivers. Ty Johnson had a career-high 204 yards and two scores on just seven carries, including runs of 76, 56 and a scoring jaunt of 48 yards. Freshman Lorenzo Harrison added 78 yards on six rushes, including a 62-yard scoring burst that made it 15-0 early in the second quarter.
“The o-line was doing their thing,” said Johnson, who had the best day by a Terrapin back since Brandon Ross had 245 yards against Indiana last November. “I saw their blocks and read the progression reads that Coach Tuck (running backs coach Anthony Tucker) has told us backs about, and then right when I see it, just hit it full throttle.”
The Terrapins often seemed to have the right play called at the right time, and when backs got through the line, they were off to the races. Much of that success, Durkin said, was due to Hills bouncing back from that early interception.
“To see how he responded was great,” said the coach. “And Perry saw our confidence in him, as well. We know what Perry is all about. The very next time we had the ball on offense, (Offensive coordinator) Walt (Bell) called a pass, Perry threw the ball and he was like, ‘Let’s go,’ and he drove us right down the field.”
Maryland’s first turnover of the season seemed to set the Boilermakers up in prime position in the first quarter. Hills’ ill-advised pass over the middle was picked off by middle linebacker Markus Bailey and returned 11 yards to the Maryland 23-yard line. An offside penalty ended up giving Purdue a first down, but there the Terrapins cut out the miscues and toughened up.
Defensive end Brett Kulka stopped Jones for a yard-loss, and then Buck end Jesse Aniebonam and linebacker Shane Cockerille met at the quarterback for a 6-yard sack. Purdue settled for a 34-yard field goal attempt from J.D. Dellinger, but his kick off the wet turf was wide right at 8:57.
And that was seemingly all the Terrapin offense needed to get going. Hills hit tailback Wes Brown, playing his first game of the season, for 20 yards on a well-executed screen, and three plays later Hills went 30 yards on an option, picking his way down the sideline around a block from D.J. Moore. Kenneth Goins then went 13 yards to the 11. On the next play, Hills threw a rope that a diving Teldrick Morgan gathered in for a score at 6:59.
“Honestly, I couldn’t even see the ball until the last second,” said Morgan of the tight coverage and Hills’ pass to the corner. “I knew it was in front of me so I just dove to get it.”
It was Morgan’s first Maryland touchdown.
On the ensuing extra point attempt, Maryland spread out and snapped directly to holder Caleb Rowe in shotgun formation and Rowe found Goins on a rollout pass for an 8-0 lead. “That’s Coach Bell,” laughed Morgan, who had five catches for 46 yards and two scores.
“We go score the touchdown, that two-point play is something we’ve worked on, let’s call it,” said Durkin. “Let’s show our guys we’re installing this stuff to run it. We’re not going to play scared, ever. They responded. I think when players sense that confidence in them, they’re going to play more confident.”
After an exchange of punts to end the first quarter, Maryland flexed its big play potential, Harrison going 62 yards through a huge hole opened in the middle as the offensive line began taking control. As if shot out of a cannon, Harrison roared untouched for a 15-0 lead at 13:35 of the second quarter.
After a holding penalty on the kickoff, Cavon Walker stopped Purdue’s Jones for a yard loss, and two plays later Roman Braglio got a big 10-yard sack on quarterback Blough back to the 4-yard line, one of a season-high six sacks by the Maryland defense. Blough had only been sacked once in the previous three games.
“We knew we had to pressure him,” said Braglio, who had two sacks. “(Blough) has a big arm and getting to the quarterback, keeping him in that pocket, not letting him run to the side and get downfield to make big plays was a big key.”
It was the Durkin/Andy Buh defense at it’s best. The front seven confidently and aggressively attacked the offense, confident that the press coverage downfield by JC Jackson, Alvin Hill and Will Likely was going to hold up. Hill had an interception late, and on the day, Blough was a miserable 18-of-41 for just 132 yards passing.
“We sent every single position of our defense as part of a blitz today,” said Durkin.
Nose tackle Azubuike Ukandu had two sacks, Aniebonam had 1.5 sacks, middle linebacker Jermaine Carter had one, as did nose tackle Azubuike Ukandu, and Cockerille shared a sack. They also controlled the line. The 10 yards Purdue had rushing were the fewest by a Maryland opponent since Boston College had eight against the Terrapins on Oct. 27, 2012.
The 43-point win was the largest margin of victory for Maryland in a conference game since a 62-14 ACC shellacking of Wake Forest on Oct. 30, 2010.
First Half Domination
After Braglio’s sack and a punt, the Terrapins took over at the 39. Morgan got 19 yards on a perfectly-timed jet sweep, and Hills hit Moore for 15 yards on a bubble screen.
On the next play, Johnson scored untouched on a misdirection up the gut from the 8-yard line to make it 22-0 at 10:08 before the half.
“The o-line did a heck of a job making the blocks and the running backs, they made some great cuts,” said Hills. “Sitting back there seeing them split the defense and then you get to run down the field with your arms up, it’s a great feeling.”
After forcing Purdue’s fifth punt of the first half, though, the Terrapins finally had a clinker. Likely made a fair catch at his own 15 on a 54-yard punt. A long Hills scramble was negated (after it had been abetted) by a hold on Brendan Moore. Freshman DJ Turner dropped a slant pass. A delay of game penalty moved the ball back to the 5, and ultimately Wade Lees uncorked a 34-yard rugby punt out of bounds at the 34-yard line.
The Maryland defense, after an offside on first down, rose to the occasion. A holding penalty on Purdue helped but the big play was Carter’s third-down sack of Blough for a 5-yard loss to force another punt. Carter got there first but the entire Maryland front collapsed the pocket.
“Our defense did a great job up front,” said Durkin. “We were able to make them one-dimensional.”
The Terrapins took over at their own nine, but on the first play, Johnson zipped 56 yards up the middle before he was caught at the Purdue 35. Hills hit Morgan for 15 yards, and then Morgan got nine more on a shovel pass. The Terrapins had first and goal at the nine, but Hills got sacked back-to-back times. On third down, though, he scampered 11 yards for the score and a commanding 29-0 lead at 11 seconds.
It was the perfect cap to a first half that saw Maryland churn out 216 yards rushing, averaging 10.3 yards per carry. The Terrapins have outscored opponents 105-14 in the first half this season, and through the first four games, are the highest scoring team in school history with 173 points.
Harrison became the first freshman in Maryland history to score a touchdown in each of his first four games.
Boilermakers Get a Break, Again
The Terrapins, who did make many mistakes, gave Purdue another golden opportunity to start the second half when Harrison bumped into Hills and caused a fumble that the Boilermakers’ Jake Replogle pounced on at the 18-yard line.
But the Maryland defense again came up big. Aniebonam sacked Blough and on fourth down, Blough’s throw into the end zone was incomplete. The play again seemed to inspire the offense. After Hills was sacked, Johnson zipped 76 yards to the other end of the field, and two plays later, Morgan scored from six yards on a shovel pass from Hills at 7:27 to make it 36-0.
Late in the third quarter, the Boilermakers moved the ball 55 yards for a score, aided by two big pass interference penalties on the Terrapins, the second on Jackson, and one that moved the ball to the Maryland 8. Four plays later, under heavy pressure, Blough got off a pass to tight end Cole Herdman for a 4-yard score just before he was sacked. The touchdown at 13:30 of the fourth quarter, cut the Maryland lead to 36-7.
Again, the Terrapin offense bounced back big. With freshman Tyrrell Pigrome at quarterback, Maryland went 59 yards in four plays to make it 43-7. Will Likely started the drive with a 39-yard kickoff return, and it was Johnson again doing the heavy lifting with his 48-yard scoring run at 12:10.
After the Maryland defense turned Purdue over on downs at midfield, Pigrome took the Terps 46 yards in eight plays to make it 50-7, on Pigrome’s 9-yard pass to fellow freshman Jake Funk. Funk slipped out of the backfield and Pigrome beat the blitz with a quick pass in the flat that Funk easily carried into the end zone with just 7:12 to play.
On the day, Maryland had a season-high 11 penalties, including two for celebration, which Durkin didn’t really mind. It was homecoming, after all. “We had a sideline warning in the game and we had a penalty after a pick (Alvin Hills’ interception) left in the game. I’ll take both those gladly. I can’t stand dumb penalties in a game, selfish penalties after a play, but aggressive penalties where it’s true joy and celebration, we’re going to take.”
Besides Johnson and Harrison on the ground, Funk had 33 yards on six carries; Goins 24 on three rushes, and Pigrome 19 on three attempts. Morgan was the only player with more than one catch. Brown had his one reception for 20-yards and also rushed for two yards on five carries. Durkin said he was shaking off some “rust” after finishing up his three-game suspension. His addition only makes the deepest position on the team deeper.
Durkin was already thinking next week, though, before the celebration was over. Maryland travels to Penn State next Saturday. “We know we have a big task ahead of us,” he said. “We need to go win in a hostile environment. I’ve played there. I’ve coached there. We know what we’re up against. We need to have our best week of practice.”