COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — DJ Durkin knew it would take some time for him to build Maryland into a team that can compete with the top schools in the Big Ten.
There’s no telling how long it will take, because it became quite clear last weekend that a substantial gap exists between the Terrapins and the teams they’re trying to emulate.
Coming off a humbling 59-3 loss at Michigan, Maryland now must prepare for No. 6 Ohio State at home Saturday.
That’s a tough order for any team, let alone a youth-laden squad in its first year under a coach with a long-term plan for success.
“It’s all a work in progress, and we’re going to continue down that road,” Durkin said Tuesday. “We’ve bounced back from some tough things throughout this season.”
The Terrapins (5-4, 2-4) rebounded from an ugly home loss to Minnesota last month with a victory over Michigan State. But every one of their wins this season have come Perry Hills at quarterback, and his status for Saturday is up in the air after he reinjured his right shoulder in the second quarter at Michigan.
“He’s day to day. That’s the real answer,” Durkin said. “I trust Perry. He’ll tell you how he really feels. We’re not going to put him in harm’s way if it’s bad for him or our team.”
Hills first hurt his shoulder against Penn State and missed the Minnesota game. He returned to beat Michigan State and put up 36 points against Indiana in a loss two weeks ago.
With or without him, the Terrapins are going to have trouble against Ohio State (8-1, 5-1). The Buckeyes put it all together last week in a 62-3 rout of then-No. 10 Nebraska and have totaled 101 points against Maryland over the past two seasons.
“It’s another great opportunity,” Terps receiver Levern Jacobs said. “They’re a great team and playing at a high level right now. We’re definitely going to have to bring our A-game.”
Even that might not be good enough against the Buckeyes. Maryland gave up touchdowns on each of Michigan’s first five possessions and never had a chance after reaching halftime in a 35-0 hole.
That’s the kind of thing that happens to a team that has started five true freshmen and employed 15 overall.
“In a normal year, you’re probably not playing 15 freshmen,” Durkin said. “Some guys are in an unfair position right now. They’re being forced to play and asked to perform, and they’re probably not quite ready. But that’s OK. They’ll get ready, and they’ll be that much more ready as we go forward.”
Durkin believes that the development of the underclassmen, combined with a few good recruiting classes, will enable Maryland to hold its down with the conference elite.
“We’ll close that gap and move forward,” Durkin said. “The team we’ve got right now, we’ve got a group of guys who know how to win. We haven’t done that at a consistent basis. But when we’re all playing together and doing the right thing, I think we’re a tough matchup for anyone.”
That, unfortunately, was not the case at Michigan.
“We’ve got to get better,” defensive tackle Azubuike Ukandu said. “That’s not good enough to beat teams like that.”
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