When Maryland and Towson met for the first time in football in 2011, the Terps were three games into Randy Edsall’s 4 ½-year coaching tenure in College Park and the Tigers were about to embark on their worst-to-first miracle season under then third-year coach Rob Ambrose.
So much has changed going into their second meeting Saturday at Maryland Stadium.
DJ Durkin is in his second year coaching the Terps and coming off his biggest win since taking over for Edsall, a 51-41 victory last week at then No. 23 Texas. Ambrose, now in his ninth year at his alma mater, is coming in after a 10-0 win over Morgan State with no delusions.
“We’ve been playing football for 49 years and we’ve been Division I for a minute,” Ambrose said after practice Wednesday. “Maryland’s been Division I from the beginning of time. To say we’re behind them historically would be like saying the sun is kind of maybe warm. So we’re catching up.”
Given their first meeting — a 28-3 win for the Terps, the last win for Edsall’s team in a 2-10 inaugural season over a Towson team that would finish 9-3 and win the Colonial Athletic Conference for the first time — it’s hard figure that Saturday’s outcome will be any different.
Not that Durkin and his Terps, whose victory in Austin was the team’s first over a ranked opponent in seven years, are looking past the Tigers to Central Florida in two weeks and the Big Ten schedule beyond that. That has never been Durkin’s mindset.
“Our guys understand it, this is a big picture process of getting better each week,” Durkin said on a teleconference with local reporters Thursday.
Durkin has not seen any emotional hangover from the game against the Longhorns and the raucous locker room that followed. It was business as usual once the team returned to campus to begin preparation for Towson.
“”They’ve had great focus this week in practice and in meetings,” Durkin said Thursday. “We’ve spent a lot of time, over a year now, really training our guys learning he process in which we do things, how we do things. How we practice, how we operate, explaining the why to them. And they have followed that.”
Asked how to prevent a letdown against the Tigers, sophomore running back Jake Funk said, “Just treat Towson like we treated Texas. You’ve got to treat every game and just continue to improve from last week. There were a lot of things we did poorly last week that we’ve got to improve on this week.”
Not that the Tigers will be intimidated coming into Maryland Stadium.
It also doesn’t hurt to know that Football Championship Subdivision teams Howard and Liberty beat Football Bowl Championship teams on the opening week of the season. At least one Tiger is using the Terps’ win over the Longhorns for motivation.
“I'm pretty sure nobody expected Maryland to beat Texas,” said Towson senior cornerback Monty Fenner. “We want to run the Maryland state. We got one Maryland team out the way [Morgan State], so if you're taking out the FBS team, I'm pretty sure that'd be a spark to a 2-0 season for us.”
Senior cornerback Brandon Shepherd, who like six Terps played his high school football at DeMatha Catholic, said the pressure is on Maryland.
“It's always a risk [playing FCS teams], but I believe every team kind of looks at it as just another week,” Shepherd said. “It's another team they have to prepare for the same way. ... Maryland, they look at us as another team. I feel that we have garnered at least enough respect to do that. They can't overlook us, and they understand that.”
Maryland senior wide receiver Jacquille Veii has seen both sides in this game — and both teams. After playing his first two years for the Terps, Veii transferred to Towson for the 2015 and now has returned after sitting out last season.
Recalling an opening game 28-20 loss at East Carolina in 2015, Veii said, “It was a pretty close game, back and forth. They made a couple of key plays and we didn’t make a couple of key plays that we needed to make in order to win the game. We were definitely hanging in there with them.”
As well as Maryland played in its opening game — minus a couple of special teams miscues that led to Texas touchdowns — Durkin said his team can play improve dramatically as it builds toward the start of the Big Ten schedule on Sept. 30 at Minnesota.
“There was a lot to clean up from that tape,” Durkin said during his weekly news conference Tuesday. “It was great to get a win and all that, and it’s always great correcting mistakes after a win, but there were a lot of mistakes out there We can get a lot better. That’s the challenge.”
Towson (1-0) at Maryland (1-0)
When: Saturday, noon.
Where: Maryland Stadium
Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM Also available on Sirius (83) XM (83) TuneIn Radio App
TV: Big Ten Network
Series: Maryland leads 1-0
What’s At Stake: Coming off their impressive 51-41 victory at then No. 23 Texas, the Terps are hoping not to have a letdown of any sort against the Tigers and hope to improve their performance, particularly on special teams. Towson, coming off a 10-0 home win against Morgan State, will be looking to pull off the kind of upset by a Football Championship Subdivision team similar to last week’s win by Howard over UNLV and Liberty over Baylor.
Key Matchup: A Maryland offense that scored the most points in school history against a ranked opponent against a Towson defense that pitched the program’s first opening game shutout since 1983. The defense, led by first-year coordinator and former Terp assistant Lyndon Johnson, had three interceptions against the Bears and will need to figure out a way to slow down an offense that amassed 482 yards and six touchdowns on just 58 plays against the Longhorns.
Player to Watch: A week after sophomore quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome went into Austin with the eyes of Texas – and Terp Nation – on him, the same attention will be paid to freshman quarterback Kasim Hill throughout the state of Maryland. Hill, who replaced the injured Pigrome in the fourth quarter and built what had become a 3-point lead back to as many as 17, will be trying to build on his impressive debut that included completing all three passes for 44 yards and five carries for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Betting Line: No line