DJ Durkin feeling good about 2-0 start after Maryland football took steps forward at FIU

MIAMI — First-year coach DJ Durkin knew his Maryland football team had plenty of room for improvement when going to play Florida International on Friday night, even if it didn't appear that way to many Terps fans after the team's season-opening win over Howard.

Though Maryland (2-0) didn't put up as many points or pile up as many yards as it did six days earlier in a 52-13 win over the Bison, Durkin seemed satisfied that positive steps were taken in a 41-14 win over the Panthers at FIU Stadium.


What Durkin appeared most pleased about was the business-like approach the Terps took to practice last week in College Park in preparing for their first road game of the season, and how they applied the same mindset toward putting together another dominant performance.

"We can't be up one week and down the next. When you do that in college football, you're going to be average at best," Durkin said outside the locker room Friday. "Our whole thing with our team is, there's a certain way to prepare, there's a certain way to do things day in and day out. So far, two into it, I feel good about how we've done that."


Durkin was happy to see fifth-year senior quarterback Perry Hills go from being more of an efficient game manager against Howard to more of a game-changer against FIU, with the help of sophomore wide receiver D.J. Moore.

Hills, who was 14-for-19 for 126 yards and no touchdowns against Howard, completed 13 of 18 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Moore on Friday. Hills also ran eight times for 52 yards, a few of them coming on designed plays.

"When you have to defend a quarterback that can do both, beat you both ways, it limits your [defensive] calls a little bit in what you can do. You can't take some chances that you would otherwise," Durkin said. "I think he's understanding, if it's not there don't put the ball in harm's way."

Moore caught six passes from Hills for a career-high 147 yards, a performance highlighted by a 45-yarder on which he got behind a defender for a touchdown and a 40-yard catch-and-run for another touchdown. The two also combined on a 21-yard flea flicker.


"D.J. Moore, I feel is a great football player, a great receiver," Durkin said. "He's a complete player. He blocks on the edge. Some of the stuff that doesn't show up in the run game [stats], he's blocking like crazy out there. He's got big-play capability, which he showed. We'll continue to get the ball to him for sure."

Moore had seen on tape of FIU's season-opening loss to Indiana and how much room the Panthers secondary was giving the Hoosiers.

While Indiana wasn't able to exploit that until late in the game, when it erased a one-point deficit going into the fourth quarter with 22 unanswered points, Maryland did it early in building a 31-7 halftime lead.

"We watched on film that they were going to play soft enough, so we knew that was something we were going to attack," Moore said.

The flea-flicker — something Moore tried unsuccessfully last season in a loss at Michigan State — set the tone for the Terps.

"We definitely always want to play bold," said Hills, who hasn't been intercepted through two games after being picked off 13 times last season. "[Offensive coordinator Walt Bell] does an unbelievable job seeing what the defense gives us and calling great plays. We just go out there and execute."

The offense, which didn't turn the ball over for the second straight week, also got a 40-yard touchdown run from freshman Lorenzo Harrison.

The offense wasn't alone in making big plays.

With the Terps holding a 3-0 lead in the opening quarter, a tipped pass by senior cornerback Alvin Hill deep in FIU territory was grabbed by junior linebacker Jermaine Carter, who ran it back 14 yards for a touchdown that seemed to change the game permanently in Maryland's favor.

"That was a momentum shifter. They had stopped us on the first drive," Moore said. "When we got that, it was like, 'Now it's time [for the offense] to go play.'"

Asked if he is surprised by how well the Terps have played so far, Durkin said, "Not surprised. We're very pleased and acknowledge that they're doing that. It's a good group of guys. They're very coachable. I said that from early on. They're doing everything we've asked them to do. Hopefully if they continue that, we'll continue to be successful."

Maryland will return to Florida to play Central Florida on Saturday in Orlando, where Durkin hopes to see a more complete performance — particularly if the Terps can build another big lead early — than his team has demonstrated the first two weeks.

"The good thing is they're getting what we emphasize right now," Durkin said. We'll go back and look at the tape and figure out what else we need to emphasize to continue to get better. Every week, we've got to keep improving. That's just the way this game goes, and especially in our conference."

Said Carter: "We know we've got to get better finishing games as a defense, as a whole team. That's just something we've got to work on. Everybody's happy. We got the win for Coach. We just wants to get better each week."

Moore said he can sense the direction the team has quickly taken under Durkin.

"We're on an uphill incline, just from last week to this week, so we're going to build it up, just like Coach said," Moore said. "We can't just settle for the two wins we've had."

NOTES: With his team scoring 93 points, Durkin moved behind only Curley Byrd for the most points scored for a Maryland coach in the first two games of a season. Byrd's 1927 team scored 106 in its first two games. ... Sophomore transfer JC Jackson, who sat out against Howard because of what was described as an "academic matter" from before he arrived at Maryland, started Friday and finished with three tackles.


Recommended on Baltimore Sun