Back on the winning track, Maryland football heads to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers and do something it hasn’t done this early in the season since 2010: Become bowl eligible.
After a home win against Michigan State, the Terrapins boast a 5-2 record (2-2 Big Ten). And with a rough 3-9 2015 season that ended in November, the chance to get their sixth win and secure a bowl game appearance in just eight games is welcomed by the team’s veterans.
“It just feels really good, especially being a senior and especially [after] what we’ve been through last year,” senior quarterback Perry Hills said. “It’s just a huge turnaround for us.”
While the 180-degree pivot offers hope for the players and fans, for first-year coach DJ Durkin, Saturday’s Indiana (3-4, 1-3) matchup is business as usual. With the standard one-game-at-a-time mentality, potentially becoming bowl eligible this weekend isn’t something Durkin said he’s discussed with his team.
Understandably, Durkin’s goal for Maryland is not a bowl game at the end of the season. It’s building a team that’s a contender in the Big Ten — the Terps are currently fourth in the East Division — with consistent bowl game appearances.
“We’re building this thing for the long term,” Durkin said. “Our deal right now is to be the best team we can be this week and just take it week to week. I think when you do that, that’s how you build a program the right way.”
Contributing to the team’s success this season and paving the way for the future are multiple freshman seeing significant playing time.
Durkin said he’s never coached a team with so many true freshmen playing — like running back Lorenzo Harrison, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week and leads the team averaging 71.7 yards per game — and continuously rotating players in almost all positions creates depth in the roster and versatility in the future.
The message of incrementally building up the program certainly isn’t lost on the players, especially those returning next season who see their potential for the future increasing.
For junior offensive lineman Mike Minter, little things in practice like running on and off the field as fast as possible helps the Terps maintain a sense of urgency, as well as their conditioning. And after what he described as their best week of practice leading up to their win over Michigan State, valuing the little things resonates with younger players and veterans alike.
“You always look forward to the next week and just try to do one week better,” Minter said. “We don’t want to just get six wins and become bowl eligible. We want to win every one of them, so if we can just keep on moving forward and attack one week, every week, at a time, then that’s something we’re excited about.”