For Terps, Durkin, Quick Lane Bowl vs. Boston College is 'a reward for our guys'

Maybe it's a good thing for first-year coach DJ Durkin that the Maryland football team will be playing its bowl game in Detroit rather than in some warm-weather spot where beach time is more alluring than practice time.

Given how careful Durkin has been in trying to keep his relatively young Terps focused on their next opponent through an up-and-down season, the Quick Lane Bowl against Boston College (6-6) at Ford Field on Dec. 26 might be the perfect combination of a beatable opponent and a slightly tame (and cold) locale.


A 7-6 final record would look a lot better than a 6-7 mark after a regular season that began with four straight victories and included the most challenging three-week stretch of games in school history.

Most importantly, a bowl victory would signal a huge improvement over last season's 3-9 disaster, which led to Durkin's arrival a little over a year ago.

"You always want to be on the winning side of that equation," Durkin said in a teleconference with local reporters Sunday. "It'll be big for us. Obviously, it's a reward for our guys. There's enjoyment in the things that go along with it, but there's also great responsibility in preparation.

"That was the conversation we had with the team. Our guys understand we're doing the right thing to prepare to win this game and not just be a participant. We know it's a really good team we're facing, and they're going to prepare the same way. It should be a good game."

Though the Quick Lane Bowl likely will not be much of a holiday attraction for Maryland supporters — longtime fans who went to the 1985 Cherry Bowl against Syracuse at the Pontiac Silverdome might be able to offer some Detroit tips — Durkin will get an extra 15 practices for a team that played just as many true freshmen this season.

It should also help when Durkin and his assistants are on the road recruiting this week. The team will leave for Detroit on Dec. 22.

"It's huge," Durkin said. "It's a great, I guess, benchmark to say where we're at and where we're going. It helps us, obviously, getting the extra practices to develop our team. It's a tangible thing that people can see there's growth and progress within your program."

Durkin said he expects the Eagles — who won their last two regular-season games, over Connecticut at home, 30-0, and at Wake Forest, 17-14, to become bowl-eligible — to be a challenge. Durkin said he knows Boston College is "well coached" after having worked with Eagles coach Steve Addazio at Florida for the 2010 season on Urban Meyer's staff.

"They're a tough, physical team, and we've got our hands full with them," Durkin said. "We're looking forward to the preparation and getting out there."

Durkin is hoping the Terps who show up at Ford Field can be described the same way.

Given the time off, fifth-year senior quarterback Perry Hills and sophomore running back Ty Johnson, the team's leading rusher, should be as healthy as they've been since the preseason. The freshmen who played significant roles on an injury-depleted roster during the second half of the season should be more seasoned.

"Get back to fundamentals and continue to improve," Durkin said. "You have some time before your game, so you can really focus on those things. Kind of like a training or spring-type practice, work on fundamentals and get better."

While he hasn't been the sentimental type in talking about his regular-season matchups against former bosses and mentors such as Meyer, now with Ohio State, and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, Durkin understands that some might look at this game as a homecoming of sorts.

Not only did he spend the 2015 season in Ann Arbor as defensive coordinator, Durkin played for and started his coaching career at nearby Bowling Green, across the state line in Ohio.


"Ford Field is a great venue to have a game, and Detroit has great support for football," he said. "A lot of great players have come out of that area. The Lions and all the teams around there get great support. I think it's a great opportunity for us, and we're looking forward to it."

Who needs the Bahamas or Boca Raton, Fla., anyway?

Note: Durkin said he didn't expect any players who were injured during the season to return for the bowl game. The status of freshmen Lorenzo Harrison and wide receiver DJ Turner, who were suspended for the past three games of the season for their role in a BB gun incident on campus Nov. 5, has yet to be resolved.

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