College Park — Maryland second-year football coach DJ Durkin often mentioned throughout his team's preseason camp this summer how fortunate it was that the Terps had gone though a month of practices without any serious injuries.
There must have been no wood to knock on or four-leaf clovers to scoop up before Maryland beat then-No. 23 Texas on Saturday at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Though Durkin was still glowing from the program's first win over a Top 25 team in seven years, his tone at Tuesday's news conference was muted by the confirmation of how serious the injuries were suffered by sophomore quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome and senior linebacker Jesse Aniebonam in the third quarter of the 51-41 victory.
Durkin announced that Pigrome will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee and that Aniebonam will be out "several months" with a fractured ankle. A third player injured, cornerback Antwaine Richardson, is "day to day" after suffering a concussion.
"Very tough for him, and for our program," Durkin said of Pigrome's injury. "I was proud of him, how he played and competed. There were a lot of questions about him going into the season what he can and can't do. There was a lot of judgments made on a guy that was a true freshman just thrown in the mix, in the fire, probably not quite ready for that."
Durkin was equally distraught about Aniebonam, who as a junior led the Terps with nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss.
The injury to Aniebonam came after the 6-foot-3, 259-pound linebacker had "put together his best work through this offseason, spring ball, training camp," Durkin said Tuesday.
Durkin added that Aniebonam was devastated by the injury, which took place earlier than those to Pigrome and Richardson.
"That's a hard one, to see the disappointment on his face, those are hard moments as a coach, you feel for guys," Durkin said. "Unfortunately injuries are part of our game and they happen. He has great football in his future, whether it's continuing here or the next level, wherever that is, he definitely has that and that's a good thing for him."
It seems unlikely Aniebonam will play again during the regular season, and possibly not at all this year even if the Terps reach a bowl game. Aniebonam should likely be able to receive a medical waiver from the NCAA if he wants to return next season.
"We're going to play it by ear and see what the plan is for him moving forward. That's not been determined by us or by him or anyone," Durkin said. "He's out for a significant amount of time."
Freshman Kasim Hill, who appears ready after what he did replacing Pigrome in Austin, will start at quarterback in Saturday's home opener against Towson.
"It really doesn't change at all. Kasim prepares the same every day. He's been like a veteran guy since day one," Durkin said. "All last week he prepared like he was the starter and you could see when he went in the game there was no drop-off."
Pigrome was injured late in the third quarter with the Terps leading 34-27. Hill completed all three passes he threw — including a 40-yarder to junior wide receiver D.J. Moore on third-and-19 — and scored on a 3-yard run to give Maryland a 44-34 lead.
"That was not only his first time playing [in college]," Durkin said of Hill. "That was his first college football game, first time he had been on the sideline in a game. He was smiling when he went in the game, like 'All right, here we go.' … He's the right guy we want in this spot."
Pigrome certainly raised the bar for Hill.
After putting the Terps in an early hole by throwing a pick-six on his first pass, Pigrome connected on eight of his next 11 attempts for 175 yards and two touchdowns as well as rushing for 64 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries to help build a 27-7 lead.
"He was really, really good in the vertical passing game," Durkin said "Obviously running the ball he was very effective that way, too .I think he showed what his abilities are and how he can really read this offense, move this offense, and he did a great job when he was in there. He will be missed by all of us … and will bounce back come back to be a great player for us."
Even after he was hurt, Pigrome tried to pump up his teammates.
"He kept telling us keep doing our thing, we'll be fine," sophomore running back Jake Funk said Tuesday. "I think he's supporting the team and the team's supporting him through his injury. He's going to be there. He's going to have our back, and we'll have his."
The only good news came from the player who appeared to be the most seriously injured against the Longhorns.
Richardson, who stayed down after making one of his six tackles before being carted off the field and sent to a local hospital with an apparent neck injury, returned with the team Saturday and is undergoing concussion protocol.
"He's doing great. We anticipate to have him back very soon," Durkin said.
It is not as clear as who'll replacement Aniebonam, though Durkin mentioned junior Melvin Keihn (Gilman) and freshman Bryce Brand as possibilities, as well as moving senior Chandler Burkett from defensive end to linebacker, where he started his career at Maryland.
"We've got to move some guys around," Durkin said. "At the end of the day, that's a part of the game. It's someone else's opportunity to step up and play."
Durkin pointed to a play in the fourth quarter when the Longhorns were threatening to take the lead. On fourth-and-2 at the Maryland 44, Texas quarterback Shane Buechele was sacked by sophomore defensive tackle Oluwaseun Oluwatimi with help by Brand, who was in for Aniebonam.
"That's what it is. The next guy's got to step up," Durkin said. "Now [Brand's] role will increase a little bit, as well as Melvin's role will increase a little bit. We'll move Chandler around. We have some actions up there. We played probably a dozen guys on the defensive line in that game. More than any[thing], you feel for Jess."
The Terps also seemed built to handle the impact of the injuries more than in Durkin's first season, when Maryland lost senior cornerback Will Likely III and senior safety Denzel Conyers with ACL injuries, and had senior quarterback Perry Hills in and out of the lineup with a variety of maladies.
"I think as a team we've always been taught with this coaching staff under Coach Durkin that adversity is going to come at some point in a game, at some point in the season," Funk said. "Unfortunately it came in the first game for Pig. But I just think, the way we've prepared, the way this program goes about itself, we're prepared to fight adversity. I think that alone allows us to be more equipped."
NOTES: Durkin acknowledged that the kicking competition will be reopened after senior Adam Greene (Broadneck) had a 31-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter blocked (and returned for a touchdown) and then was well short on a 50-yard attempt in the fourth quarter. Greene also made a 26-yarder after the blocked field. Greene beat out sophomore Mike Shinsky (McDonogh) and Georgetown graduate transfer Henry Darmstadter in preseason camp to retain the starting job. "We'll continue to chart those guys and compete during the week in practice, and just trying to make a decision for who can give us the best opportunity to be consistent kicking the ball," Durkin said.