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The Maryland football team came to Ford Field the day after Christmas looking to fill first-year coach DJ Durkin's stocking with a victory over Boston College in the Quick Lane Bowl and, even more importantly, a winning record.

But a sloppy start Monday left the Terps looking at 16-point deficits at three junctures in the first half, and they eventually fell into a 23-point hole early in the third quarter. Though Maryland made things interesting late in the game, Durkin's inaugural season ended with a 36-30 defeat and a 6-7 record.

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While crediting the Eagles, a clearly frustrated Durkin called his team's fifth defeat in its past six games an "extremely tough loss."

"We made far too many mistakes to win a game; I really feel we shot ourselves in the foot way too many times in that game with penalties and then turnovers," he said.

"... The positive coming out is that you have a bunch of guys in that locker room that really care about each other and really played and fought till the end. There were plenty of times in that game when they could have tanked it and moved on and you didn't see that."

The game played before an announced 19,117 in the mostly empty 65,000-seat NFL stadium. In reality, the attendance might have been half that number. Much of the game appeared to summarize the season for the Terps.

It was highlighted by another breathtaking performance by sophomore running back Ty Johnson, as well as continued struggles for fifth-year senior quarterback Perry Hills and his young offensive line.

Johnson finished with 159 yards on 15 carries and two long touchdowns, a 62-yarder to get the Terps on the board and a 30-yarder that cut into a 23-7 lead for Boston College (7-6), which led 29-13 at halftime.

Except for a pair of long touchdown passes in the third quarter, Hills had a difficult afternoon in his final game.

He was sacked eight times, he fumbled and he was intercepted deep in his team's territory in the first half. He then fumbled on second down at the Eagles' 1-yard line with a little over four minutes remaining in the game. The Terps trailed by nine at the time of the turnover.

"The ball's on the half-yard line; we've got to get the ball in the end zone, let alone turn it over," Durkin said. "A couple of plays before that, we were on the 2-yard line in a 22-man mosh pit and had a holding penalty called on us. Just one thing after another."

Boston College returned the favor by fumbling inside its 10, but Maryland managed just a 23-yard field goal by junior Adam Greene (Broadneck). On his team's final chance in the last two minutes, two of Hills' passes were deflected at the line of scrimmage and he was sacked for the final time on fourth-and-10 from the Terps 35-yard line.

"Everything that could have went wrong, went wrong," said Hills, who finished 15-for-35 for 229 yards, with a 63-yard touchdown pass to senior Teldrick Morgan (Meade) and a 52-yard touchdown to senior Levern Jacobs less than three minutes apart in the third quarter. "It's hard, but at the end of the day, everyone fought their tails off. I'm proud of everyone — I'm proud of all the seniors not giving up."

Asked about the troubles for the normally sure-handed Hills — he also fumbled a snap on a potential touchdown play — Durkin said he would have to look at the tape.

"I don't know whose fault, the ball was getting up or not, or if it was Perry, I don't know," Durkin said. "It's hard to see that full speed on the field, but at the end of day, that can't happen."

In addition to the eight sacks, Boston College's defense had six tackles for losses.

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When he was sacked by defensive end Harold Landry — the nation's co-leader with 15 sacks coming into the game — on fourth down with 1:25 left, Hills quickly realized that his injury-marred senior year and his long career at Maryland had come to an end.

"It was definitely a little heartbreaking," the normally stoic Hills said. "You start remembering back all through everything that you've been through, every game. You start looking around and say, 'This is the last time I'm going to put a Maryland uniform on.'"

Durkin said he felt bad for Hills and the other seniors, nearly two dozen of them, who helped change the mentality for Maryland this season.

Despite seeing a promising 4-0 start disappear as key players such as Hills and senior cornerback Will Likely III missed games to injuries, Durkin said he saw progress.

"It's a hard way to go out, a way to finish for those guys," Durkin said. "For those guys to buy in the way they bought in this year, and we demanded a lot, it's been a hard program for 12 months. We made it hard for a reason, so there'd be a big investment. Hard to be in that room.

"Our seniors bought in with blind trust and did a great job. It wasn't all pretty, obviously. But we've got to continue to get better. … I think you can definitely see the program is headed in the right direction. We've got to learn how to not beat ourselves before we can go beat someone else."

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

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