Matt Canada came to Maryland 10 months ago trying to find some stability in a career that had included seven different stops in the past nine years, with College Park being the fourth in four years.
In the past week, Canada watched as third-year coach DJ Durkin went from being on administrative leave for 2½ months to getting reinstated Tuesday to being terminated Wednesday night.
After Saturday’s 24-3 loss to Michigan State at Maryland Stadium, Canada said Durkin’s departure didn’t change the way he was approaching the job as the team’s interim coach.
“That’s what my title is,” Canada said. ”We’re not going to change. You’d be the same guy every day. I’m going to be the same guy every day. We’re sitting here not where we wanted to be, but we also could be a lot different, too.”
At 5-4 overall (3-3 Big Ten), the Terps remain one win shy of becoming bowl-eligible. Maryland plays Saturday at Indiana, where Canada went to college and began his career as a student assistant coach. He also coached there from 2004 to 2010, spending the last four seasons as offensive coordinator.
“We’ve won some games, we’ve played well against teams, so we’re not going to make changes in how we approach things,” said Canada, who according to documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun more than doubles his $650,000 salary by remaining interim coach for the remainder of the season.
“I’m still going to be the offensive coordinator, I’m still going to be the cheerleader for the defense and we’re going to keep doing exactly what we’ve been doing. We’re not going to panic. We just have to play better. I have to coach better.”
Against the Spartans, Canada’s offense had the same problems it did in the team’s two previous Big Ten losses, at Michigan and at Iowa. A week after scoring 63 points and amassing 712 yards in a 30-point win over Illinois, the Terps managed just a field goal and a season-low 100 yards.
Canada talked about how the Terps nearly cut a 17-3 deficit to a one-score game with an interception return for a touchdown by junior defensive end Byron Cowart, only to see Cowart fumble into the end zone and let the Spartans recover for a touchback one play before sophomore running back Connor Heyward ran 80 yards for a touchdown.
“So we’re right there playing with one of the top programs in the nation and in our league, and we’re that far away from [the score] being 17-10,” Canada said. “So our players played very hard. They played together. We have to coach better.
“I have to coach better. It falls on me. But I’m so proud of our players the the way they played today. We just didn’t play well enough to win the football game and that’s why we play. That’s why we play football. So we’ll be excited to come back and play next week.”
After a week when Durkin’s situation was settled as it relates to his first head coaching job, Canada wouldn’t mind to have a relative stress-free week going into Indiana.
Ironically, in a season when Durkin was supposed to bring a team back to his alma mater, Bowling Green, where he also started his coaching career under then-first-year coach Urban Meyer, Canada will take the Terps to his alma mater in Bloomington, Ind., where he never played but started his coaching career as a student assistant.
Considering all that transpired last week, Canada wants to provide as much stability as possible for the remaining three weeks of the season. After facing the Hoosiers, Maryland will host No. 10 Ohio State on Nov. 17 and then finish the season at No. 14 Penn State on Nov. 24.
“All we can do is take it day by day,” said Canada, who is also collecting the $1.7 million owed to him by LSU. “I’m hopeful that our kids will come in tomorrow like they have every other day and look at each other and know that we wish we had won.
“We're still here together, and we have 20 days left being around each other. That’s what football is. You enjoy the season you’re in because every year it changes. Players leave, coaches leave. that’s true on every football program in the country.”
When the Terps reviewed film of their performance against Michigan State on Sunday, the process remained the same, as did Canada’s title and mindset as the team’s interim coach and offensive coordinator.
“We’re going to come in, be excited about grading ourselves tomorrow,” Canada said. “That’s the one thing we do in this place. We’re honest with each other. Pull the thumb. I could have done this better, fair. You could have done that better, fair. Fix it, move on and get ready to play Indiana.”