After losing three consecutive Big Ten matchups by a combined score of 149-13, the 5-6 Terrapins must beat Rutgers on Saturday to secure their first bowl game appearance since 2014.
Big Ten Struggles
Last Saturday’s 28-7 loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers summed up Maryland’s season against Big Ten teams; poor defense, inconsistent quarterback play , and loss of morale. Coming into the game, the Terrapins were a 5-5 ball club recovering from a 62-3 loss to Ohio State, which hosted their largest home crowd of the season (48,090). The No. 19 ranked Cornhuskers were coming off a close victory over Minnesota to improve to 8-2. Although Nebraska’s starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong was injured, the team was able to plug in backup quarterback Ryker Fyfe for his debut start.
Although quarterbacks Tyrell Pigrome and Caleb Rowe have filled in for injured Perry Hills throughout the season, freshman quarterback, Max Bortenschlager, got the starting nod. Bortenschlager was outplayed by Fyfe who went 23-37 for 220 yards and a touchdown. With a lack of offensive weapons, Bortenschlager was fortunate to rely on receiver D.J. Moore, who racked up 124 yards and a touchdown. Maryland’s rushing game was worse than their pedestrian passing attack. On 25 carries, the Terrapins totaled 11 rushing yards on the ground (accounting for sacks as loss of rush yards). Maryland’s defense shaped up in the second-half, but only after giving up three first-half rushing touchdowns to Nebraska’s Terrell Newby. After winning their first four games, the Terps have dropped six of their last seven outings.
First-year head coach D.J. Durkin has led the Terrapins to a 5-6 record with already two more wins than last year’s 3-9 finish. However, all six of their losses have come from Big Ten opponents, leaving the Terps 2-6 in the conference. The Terrapins rank in the bottom half of both total offense and defense as they’ve allowed 117 more points than scored.. Besides the close games against Michigan State and Indiana, most of Maryland’s Big Ten matchups were very lopsided. Maryland is a middle of the pack team in the conference, but look for Coach Durkin to turn this team around during his tenure.
The most important game of the season comes down to their last game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The 2-9 Scarlet Knights have not won a game in two months, putting them in last place in the conference. What looks like a promising victory, ended in a close 46-41 victory over Rutgers last year.However, this year has post-season implications. Fortunately, the Scarlet Knights have been shut out four times this season and sports a defense that is dead last in the Big Ten. If the Terps can pull off one more victory, then this would be Maryland’s first bowl game appearance since 2014 in the Foster Farms Bowl. It would also be their first under Coach Durkin, who won a bowl game as Florida State’s interim head coach in 2014.
In order to make a viable post-season push, the Terrapins must overcome injuries and quarterback woes. Fifth-year quarterback Perry Hills has not played a full game since injuring his right shoulder against Central Florida. It’s likely that Hills sat Saturday’s game in order to rest for the season finale against Rutgers. Coach Durkin can pick from a handful of quarterbacks such as Caleb Rowe or Tyrrell Pigrome.
Moreover, Maryland will be without one of their best players, defensive back and return man Will Likely. After a tearing his ACL in the loss to Minnesota, it was announced that Likely will miss the rest of the season. As one of the most dangerous return men in the country, the All-Big Ten senior holds six Maryland records.
Injuries are not the only setback that has plagued the Terrapins. One hour before the game against Ohio State, Coach Durkin announced the suspension of three freshmen: wide receiver D.J. Turner, linebacker Antoine Brooks, and running back Lorenzo Harrison. The three students were suspended for their involvement in a BB gun incident on November 6. With Brooks being pardoned, Harrison and Turner were arrested and charged with three counts of second-degree assault and reckless endangerment. Harrison, having a standout year, is only 57 yards shy of breaking LaMont Jordan’s 19-year-old school record for most rushing yards by a freshman. Durkin calls the loss of his second-leading rusher “significant.” Unfortunately, the Terps will be without Harrison and Turner indefinitely.
A position Maryland will address in their recruiting class is the quarterback. The Terps are currently dealing with two seniors and a freshman in Tyrrell Pigrome who hasn’t showed many flashes of being quarterback material. There are also backups Gage Shaffer (Fr.) and Max Bortenschlager (Fr.). After missing out on 4-star quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who recommitted for Ohio State, the Terps have picked up another 4-star quarterback in Kassim Hill of St. John’s College High School. Hill can be projected to start in his first or second year. The highest ranked recruit is 5-star DE Joshua Kaindoh of IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. The Essex, Maryland, native can help a Terrapin defense that has given up 228 yards per game rushing (3rd to last in BIG Ten). Recruits also include local 4-star players like Cameron Spence (DT) and Deon Jones (CB). Both ranked in the top 5 of their respective positions. Coach Durkin is known for his strong recruiting skills. Maryland currently has the 15th ranked recruiting class in the nation according to 247Sports. The 2012 “Rivals.com Recruiter of the Year” has a rich pool of local talent to pick from every season.
Cole Field House
Future football recruits will have something to look forward to with the construction of the Terrapin Performance Center. In 2014, the university announced the renovation of Cole Field House, which was the Terrapins basketball stadium from 1955 to 2002. The new facility will become the headquarters for the football team; hosting an indoor practice field, weight rooms, and sports related research hubs. On October 30, the Diamondback reported that the facility will also include an underground tunnel leading to Maryland Stadium. Although the $155 million project is not expected to be finished until the end of 2019, it will definitely be used to attract future recruits in the meantime.
As a product of both Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer, Coach Durkin knows what success looks like. Also a strong recruiter, Durkin has the ability to take Maryland’s program to the next level. The most important position will be the quarterback. The lack of a true signal-caller has been the demise of past Maryland head coaches. With next season’s schedule including teams like Towson, UCF, and Rutgers, there’s no doubt that Maryland could be a six win team.