By Michelle R. Martinelli
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Despite the 31-10 loss to Minnesota on Saturday, Maryland football coach DJ Durkin likes the way his defense played. For the most part.
The Terrapins secondary managed to limit the Gophers to just 82 passing yards, but it didn’t make much of a difference for a team that regularly hits more than 200 yards on the ground and finished with 228 at Maryland Stadium.
Their biggest blunder was giving up a third-and-one, 70-yard touchdown to Minnesota tailback Rodney Smith near the beginning of the fourth quarter, giving his team a 24-3 lead.
“I think we played pretty well on defense,” Durkin said. “Could we have played better? Absolutely. We missed an assignment on that play. It was third-and-one, we’re trying to get a stop and we blew an assignment.”
Maryland prepared for a heavy run game, and junior linebacker Jermaine Carter, Jr. said he didn’t see anything different from the Gophers that wasn’t evident on tape. They just didn’t execute.
Smith ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns for Minnesota, while Shannon Brooks added another 86 yards.
Although Carter maintained it wasn’t a factor against the defense, it certainly didn’t help that the majority of the Terps’ drives were less than two minutes, ending with a punt or occasional turnover.
“Both running backs ran real hard, but it’s just we have to be sound in our run fits and our run gaps and just have to be where we’re supposed to be when we need to be there,” Morgan said.
Taking a hit:
In his first start at Maryland, freshman quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome showed potential as a dual threat, throwing for 161 yards and leading the run game with 70 yards on the ground.
But he also took three sacks.
Durkin noted it would be easy to blame the lack of production on offense on the rookie starting, but said there is plenty of blame to go around on the field and within the coaching staff. He called it a “trickle-down effect.”
“They were hugging the line of scrimmage and holding the box, daring us to throw it with [Pigrome],” Durkin said. “He can execute throwing down the field. We’ve got to do a better job protecting him.”
“It’s a guy that doesn’t have a wealth of playing experience in college football, and all of a sudden, the pocket’s breaking down. Now, he gets antsy back there.”
When will Hills return?
Earlier in the week, Durkin said senior quarterback Perry Hills was day-to-day with a shoulder injury. Hills initially injured his shoulder in Maryland’s overtime win against Central Florida, and last week in the Penn State loss, he left the game in the first half and has not played since.
He did, however, participate in some aspects of practice this week.
Against Minnesota, Durkin said it was his game-time decision not to play Hills, and they will continue to re-evaluate his shoulder throughout the week.
“I don’t feel it’s in his best interest or our team’s to put him out there right now,” Durkin said. “Perry is as tough as they come. He wants to go, wants to play but ultimately, we just thought our best opportunity [to win] was if [Pigrome] was in.”