Maryland's DJ Durkin preaches defense in return to Michigan,
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) As defensive coordinator at Michigan last year, DJ Durkin guided a unit that allowed an average of 261 yards and 16.4 points per game.
Now the head coach at Maryland, Durkin watched in dismay last weekend as the Terrapins yielded 650 yards – 414 on the ground – in a 42-36 loss at Indiana.
As he prepares for his return to Michigan on Saturday, Durkin knows his defense must improve dramatically if the Terrapins are to have any chance at all of upsetting the second-ranked Wolverines (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten).
The first step is determining what went wrong against Indiana.
''There's a whole list of things,'' Durkin said Tuesday. ''What we have to do is get our guys playing better fundamentally and within the scheme. As a young team, there's like a sense of panic that sets in when you get hit on a couple plays and things aren't working. Guys start to do their own thing.''
Maryland (5-3, 2-3) had an opportunity to become bowl-eligible with a victory. The Terrapins rolled up 517 yards and five touchdowns, but it wasn't enough to overcome a defense that allowed 34 first downs and permitted three different players to rush for at least 100 yards.
''Looking at the film, they just caught us,'' defensive tackle Roman Braglio said. ''It was not our best game, to say the least. This week, we're definitely going to improve.''
Durkin has spent hours looking at the film in an effort to determine the flaws of a defense that is surrendering an average of 401.5 yards and 23.2 points.
''We have all the signs of a team that has a bunch of promise. But also, it's a young team and we play that way,'' he said. ''We're inconsistent right now. Individually and as a whole, there's a lot of ups and downs.''
Returning to Michigan isn't going to be a trip down memory lane for Durkin, who worked under Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh for only one year before being hired by Maryland last December.
''I really enjoyed my time there, so being back there will be nice,'' Durkin said. ''It's a great place. My family enjoyed it. But you're there to play a football game. When you travel for games, you go to the hotel and have meetings, get up and go play the game. Then you leave right afterward. So you don't really have time for anything other than getting the team prepared.''
His players know just how much their coach would enjoy winning at The Big House.
''Obviously coach Durkin would love a huge win from us, being that this is the school he came from and being that it's the No. 2 team in country,'' Braglio said. ''It's a great setup for us, to come out there as an underdog.''
After losing at Penn State and Indiana, the Terrapins remain winless on the road in the Big Ten. They hope to turn it around against Michigan, which has tallied at least 40 points in six of eight games and is coming off a 31-23 win at Michigan State.
''We've got to find a way to get a win on the road in our conference,'' Durkin said. ''That's something we're talking about as a team. It's the next step.''
This is the first of three consecutive games for Maryland against highly ranked teams. The Terps host Ohio State on Nov. 12 before traveling to Nebraska the following week.
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