The 90-degree game-time temperature and accompanying humidity Friday night at Ocean Bank Field were no problem for a Maryland football team that had spent much of its preseason camp practicing under a searing midday sun in College Park.
Neither was Florida International.
After watching fellow Big Ten Conference member Indiana struggle here against the Panthers for three quarters in the season opener a week ago, the Terps wanted to make sure not to give the Conference USA team any hope.
With senior quarterback Perry Hills picking up where he left off in the first half last Saturday against Howard, the Terps built a 31-7 halftime lead and cruised to a 41-14 win, the second straight lopsided victory for new coach DJ Durkin.
Their combined 93 points in the two wins trail only the 106 scored under Curley Byrd in 1927 for the most in the first two games of any Maryland season.
"I was just really pleased with the way our guys came out and played. I thought our guys prepared really well, traveled really well. That was our first road game together," Durkin said. "More than anything, that was a big thing coming in here, how we're going to go through that as a team. It's not easy getting road wins in college football."
Hills started slowly, then picked it up when he started playing catch with sophomore receiver D.J. Moore. The two combined for five passes — including a 21-yard flea flicker from Moore to Hills and a more conventional 45-yard touchdown pass to Moore — and 119 yards in the first half alone.
Playing a little less than three quarters, Hills finished 13-for-18 for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 52 yards on eight carries.
Moore, who turned a short pass from Hills into a 40-yard touchdown in the second half, finished with a career-high 147 yards on six catches.
"We've been looking forward to that all week. D.J. had a spectacular day," Hills said. "Had a couple of great plays, scored a touchdown. He's a really good player."
Said Durkin: "I just think we're scratching the surface with what he can do and what we can do with him."
What pleased Durkin just as much was that the once-turnover-prone Hills has not made one in his first two starts.
"To go two games with no turnovers, really clean, your quarterback has to make good decisions with the ball, which he's doing," Durkin said. "He put us in good spots. We had some big plays, which is something we need to be doing more and more of. It was good to see some of those out there."
Along with the long touchdown passes to Moore, freshman running back Lorenzo Harrison broke free for a 40-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to extend Maryland's lead to 17-0.
For as much as the Terps did offensively, two of their biggest plays were made on defense.
The first came late in the first quarter after Wade Lees, a 28-year-old freshman from Australia, pinned the Panthers (0-2) back at their 3-yard line. On third-and-3 from the 10, cornerback Alvin Hill tipped a pass from quarterback Alex McGough that was picked off by junior linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. and returned 14 yards for a touchdown.
"I was actually blitzing on the play," Carter said. "Our coaches always talk about giving a fanatical effort and running to the ball. I blitzed my guy and I ran to try to help make a tackle. Alvin made a great play on the ball, and it just popped up and it fell into my hands. I just had to get in the end zone for my team."
The second big play happened late in the first half, after the Panthers scored on a long drive. With Maryland leading 24-7, FIU was driving again when it had a fourth-and-1 from the Terps' 37.
After both Durkin and Panthers coach Ron Turner called timeouts, senior defensive end Roman Braglio (McDonogh) stuffed Gardner for no gain. The Terps then drove efficiently deep into FIU territory, with Hills finding junior tight end Derrick Hayward for his first career touchdown on a 9-yard pass.