Dienhart: DJ Durkin, Maryland make Texas toast
Maryland coach DJ Durkin couldn’t help but crack a smile. You would grin, too, if you were a second-year coach of one of the nation’s fastest-rising programs who just made toast of Texas.
Who saw this 51-41 Maryland victory at No. 23 Texas coming when they stared into their bowl of Fruit Loops this morning? I didn’t. And neither did you, Pop Tart breath.
Yes, Texas has struggled in recent years, going 16-21 the last three seasons and missing the postseason each of the last two years. But the Longhorns have a new golden child coach in Tom Herman, who went 22-4 the last two years at Houston. And UT always has talent … lots of talent. Was Durkin ready for a trip to Austin in his second year in College Park?
Maryland used a balanced offense that exploded for big plays to pull off one of the most shocking results of the opening week of the season. That surely caused the Pinot noir-sipping and brie-noshing Longhorn fans to smash their candelabras before packing up their BMWs and heading home to vent on message boards.
How did this happen? Maryland doesn’t care. Maybe in a few years, we will look back on this day as the turning point of the Terrapin program.
Credit Durkin, the boyish-looking coach with the sheepish smile. He is coming off a 6-7 debut in which his team essentially beat who is was supposed to beat and lost to who it was supposed to lose to. He is trying to make Maryland relevant for the first time since Ralph Friedgen took the program to the Orange Bowl after the 2001 season. Remember that? Foggy, isn’t it?
Now, Durkin—who has recruited well—has a huge win to show the fan base and recruits for a program that also is pouring millions into facilities. Ladies and gentlemen: The already-tough Big Ten East that features Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State just got tougher.
How stunning was this outcome? The Terps were 0-3 all-time vs. Texas, last playing the Longhorns in 1978 in the Sun Bowl. Maryland last was in Austin in 1959. Interesting fact: The Terrapins had been shut out in each of their three meetings vs. UT, losing by a combined 102-0.
Ancient history now, Bevo.
Sure, this isn’t Mack Brown’s Texas, which is riding its first four-game losing streak since 1997. The program is coming off three consecutive losing seasons, which hasn’t happened since 1935-38. Still, the Longhorns are college football royalty, a program golden enough to have its own network.
Maryland seized control early vs. Texas and never relented. Texas took a 7-0 lead off a pick six … and never led again. UT cut the lead to 30-27 in the third quarterback, but Maryland responded with a TD and never looked back. You could almost see Herman’s white hat getting tighter as the realization UT was going to lose sunk in.
Maryland can thank quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome. He won a heated battle for the job in training camp. I’ll admit it: I didn’t think Pigrome was going to win the spot when the BTN bus stopped in College Park in August. I liked North Carolina transfer Caleb Henderson. And true freshman Kasim Hill looked good, too.
Pigrome? He is 5-foot-nothing, a true sophomore uber athlete who got his feet wet last year. But was he really a good enough passer to breathe life into the offense?
Yep. Take a bow, kid. You are now part of Maryland lore.
Pigrome answered a lot of questions on a sweltering afternoon in Austin. He hit 9-of-12 passes for 175 yards with two touchdowns and a pick along with 64 rushing yards and a score, leading Maryland to its first win vs. a ranked team since 2010 and its first vs. a ranked team on the road since 2008 before leaving late in the game with injury.
Maryland was able to move the ball at will vs. the Longhorns, rushing for 263 yards. Ty Johnson led the parade for the Terrapins, running 12 times for 132 yards and one TD. D.J. Moore led the way for the wideouts with seven catches for 133 yards and a score. The defense also did well, limiting Texas to 98 yards rushing. If not for three non-offensive touchdowns by Texas, this game wouldn’t have been even this close.
Up next for the Terrapins: A game vs. FCS Towson followed by a visit from Central Florida. Then, the Big Ten slate opens with games at Minnesota and at Ohio State. Interesting.
Can Maryland keeps its mojo humming and become a factor in the Big Ten East?