Maryland finds way to win during decidedly ‘unique’ season
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Maryland has started what the Terrapins interim coach describes as a “unique” season unbeaten and is garnering votes in the Top 25 poll while playing for fallen teammate Jordan McNair and without head coach DJ Durkin.
After opening with an upset of then-No. 23 Texas and using a big second half to beat Bowling Green 45-14 last week, the Terrapins open their home schedule Saturday against winless Temple.
Maryland will hold a moment of silence before the game to remember McNair. In addition, his No. 79 will be displayed in a large circle behind one end zone, and the same number has been painted in red outside the 21 yard-line — 79 yards away from the goal line.
“We will continue to honor Jordan as a football team in our own way,” interim coach Matt Canada said Tuesday.
McNair died of heatstroke on June 3, two weeks after collapsing during conditioning drills. The university has acknowledged mistakes were made in the treatment the offensive lineman received on the field, and an investigation into the matter is currently ongoing.
The death of McNair, along with reports of bullying by the coaching staff, led Maryland to place Durkin on administrative leave on Aug. 11. The Maryland Board of Regents has established a commission to assess the culture of the football program, with no specific timetable for its release.
Canada is serving as interim coach and offensive coordinator of a team that has dedicated its season to their former teammate. The Terps have rolled to a pair of victories and ranked 30th in points received in the latest AP poll.
“It’s a credit to our players,” Canada said. “There’s no magic formula for anything like this. All of the things that have occurred have been unique.”
Weeks ago, the coaching staff and players agreed that it would take a group effort to get through the season. Canada said players’ personal goals have been pushed aside for the sake of the team.
Example: In last Saturday’s soggy win over Bowling Green, fleet-footed quarterback Kasim Hill was content to give the ball to his running backs, who received ample blocking up and down the line.
“All we wanted to do was leave Bowling Green with a win. Kasim is part of that,” Canada said. “Obviously, we weren’t throwing the ball all around the yard in the second half. He was handing it off, managing the game, managing the clock, managing the weather. That’s what that game called for.”
After completing 21 passes against Texas, Hill threw only 16 times on a night the Terrapins ran for 444 yards.
“The wide receivers and tight ends did a great job blocking,” Canada noted. “Those guys didn’t come here to block. They like to catch passes. But that wasn’t how to win.
“We’re not worried about stats, we’re not worried about numbers. We’re worried about winning. Kasim was celebrating in the end zone, the wideouts were celebrating. It’s a credit to our whole football team, and Kasim is certainly one of the leaders of this team.”
Canada, 46, is making the most of his initial experience as a college head coach in a difficult situation.
“There are times I have to do certain things because of the role I’m in today,” Canada said, “but I’m just the offensive coordinator.”