Maryland coach DJ Durkin said Monday that the confidence his players had in each other contributed to the team’s resilience in Saturday’s 30-24 double-overtime road win at Central Florida.
“I told them in the locker room afterward, teams that don’t have belief in one another and what’s going on find a way to lose those games,” Durkin said on a teleconference with reporters. “Teams that do find a way to win 'em. That’s a real measuring stick for us right now as a program.
“We have a bunch of guys that believe in one another and are playing with confidence. So we can definitely build on that. … To go through that moment together, hopefully what it does is reaffirm what they’re doing is right and they’re really buying in and working hard for it every day.”
Durkin said that as much as a second straight Florida road win and the first true test of the season gave his team, “there’s plenty to clean up from that tape and plenty of things we need to do to get a lot better.”
Maryland (3-0) has a week off before starting its Big Ten schedule against Purdue (1-1) on Oct. 1 in College Park.
Durkin said he and the training staff will monitor redshirt senior quarterback Perry Hills on a day-to-day basis regarding the right shoulder he injured on the first play of the second overtime.
If it’s determined that Hills isn't at full strength for the Boilermakers, Durkin said he has full confidence in true freshman quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome.
Without taking a previous snap in the game in Orlando, Pigrome rushed 24 yards for the game-winning touchdown after the Maryland defense had forced a fumble by McKenzie Milton, UCF’s true freshman quarterback.
“For Piggy to come in the game and do that, if you know him, you’re not shocked,” Durkin said. “He didn’t know if that was a spring practice or a double-overtime game in front of a sellout crowd.
“For him, it was no different. He was cool as can be. He threw a couple of [warmup] passes, maybe checked his leg up and stretched a minute or something. ... The demeanor he has I really believe makes him a great player.”
When asked if what he did raises Durkin's confidence in Pigrome and makes the first-year coach think about using the former Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year more by design than necessity, Durkin made it clear that Hills will get all the snaps as long as he’s healthy.
“We know [Pigrome] had that in him, but when you’re the quarterback of a team, you get every single play,” Durkin said. “The ball is in your hands, the team is in your hands.
“Perry has been operating at a really high level, our offense has been doing a great job, protecting the football, making good decisions. At this point to be 3-0, we’ve had zero turnovers.”
Before getting hurt, Hills was getting into a rhythm that seemed to elude him for most of the game. In the first overtime, Hills ran three straight times, including a 20-yarder on second down to set up a short touchdown run.
Durkin said he had considered going on offense first in the second overtime because his defense had been on the field so much through the course of the steamy night. He said he looked over at his defensive huddle "and they were ready to go."
It didn't appear that way, as Milton was able to drive the Knights down to the Maryland 2-yard line before he fumbled as he threw a backward pass that the Terps recovered. It was Milton's fourth turnover of the game.
“We got the big stop in the overtime, which I thought was huge for our guys to respond to that on about the 90th play for them,” Durkin said. “They were still playing hard and still playing well.”
NOTES: Durkin said his decision not to take sophomore defensive end Melvin Keihn (Gilman) on the trip to Central Florida was the result of a “minor incident” and that Keihn will be available for the next game. ... Senior safety Denzel Conyers, who was injured late in the game, had an MRI scheduled for Monday. ... Running back Wes Brown, who sat out the first three games with a suspension dating back to last season, will return for the Purdue game.