DJ Durkin’s Maryland football team did what it had to do against Howard on Saturday, winning easily, 52-13. For at least a brief moment after the game, the coach got to enjoy it.
Durkin was a happy guy when he entered a sea of red, white and gold in Maryland’s locker room after his first win as the program’s head coach.
He’ll undoubtedly have to move on to the Terps’ next opponent quickly, as the team has to prepare for its Friday night matchup against Florida International, but his first win as Maryland’s head coach was a sweet one.
“It was a special moment,” running back Kenneth Goins Jr. told reporters after the game. “For me, I’ve seen a few coaches come in and out so it was a special moment to see him get that first win under his belt.”
On Saturday, Durkin had to adjust to his new role. When he was a defensive coordinator, Durkin couldn’t afford to watch much of the offense during the game. He’d be with his defense, making adjustments and preparing for the next drive. Now, Andy Buh is doing that while Durkin oversees the entire team.
“There were times when the defense was on the field, Coach Buh was calling the game, and I’m getting a little antsy because you’re usually doing more when they’re out on the field,” Durkin said. “But it was great, I enjoyed it.”
Durkin wasn’t the only guy adjusting to a new role against Howard. It was the first time the new staff as a whole worked a game day, and that’s an adjustment for everybody. Things are easier when you’re playing an FCS team, but nonetheless the only problems the team had came near the end of the game, when freshmen and less experienced players got in.
“I thought everyone communicated really well,” Durkin said. “Usually, that first game, there are a bunch of substitution errors and lacks in communication and all that, and that was really at a minimum.”
This game week was a chance for coaches and players alike to break out of the repetition of fall camp. After lining up against the same group of teammates day in and day out, the Terps finally got to take out their frustrations on someone else.
“It was nice to get out there and hit someone in a different color uniform,” linebacker Shane Cockerille said. “During camp, the first few days, everybody is real happy and ‘rah rah’ to get out there and make contact, and after a while it kind of gets old and you want to go out there and hit somebody else.”
The opener allowed Durkin to do something he’d been saying he’d do since he signed his first recruiting class in February: he played true freshmen, and he played them a lot. Tyrrell Pigrome was the first quarterback off the bench and sped past Bison defenders with ease, Tino Ellis saw a ton of snaps at cornerback before playing some receiver late in the game, Lorenzo Harrison led the team with 67 rushing yards and Terrance Davis saw time at left guard, just to name just a few.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had that here,” Cockerille said. “At least since I got here, freshmen haven’t really played at all except Stef[on Diggs] or Yannick [Nagkoue].”
Getting that first in-game experience was undoubtedly a weight of their shoulders, especially now that the team has to get ready for some FBS games that won’t be nearly as easy as this one was.
Saturday was just a warm-up. Friday’s game against FIU and Week 3’s matchup with UCF might not be as tough as most Big Ten games, but they are far from certain wins. But first, Durkin can celebrate a little.
“I’ve seen him happy, but he was really happy after this first win,” Cockerille said.