COLLEGE PARK | Considering coach D.J. Durkin’s fate has hung over the team all season, they are one of the most-penalized teams in the nation, and four of their next six games are against ranked opponents, the Maryland Terrapins are looking pretty good right now.
Despite the turmoil surrounding the program since Durkin was placed on leave amid charges he and the University of Maryland were negligent in the death of lineman Jordan McNair, players have rallied around both the memory of their late teammate and the steadying influence of interim coach Matt Canada.
The 4-2 Terrapins, somehow, are just two wins away from bowl eligibility going into Saturday’s game at No. 19 Iowa.
“Our players have done a great job of worrying about one game at a time,” Canada said, in response to the meaning of a bowl invitation. “We are focusing just on Iowa. We will see what happens there. Hopefully we will play well.”
A win Saturday would be huge, especially considering Canada and the Terrapins still have home games against No. 24 Michigan State on Nov. 3 and No. 2 Ohio State on Nov. 17 before closing out the regular season Nov. 24 at No. 18 Penn State.
Whether Canada or Durkin is calling the shots on the sidelines in those matchups could be decided before kickoff Saturday. The school’s Board of Regents is slated to meet Friday on whether to bring Durkin back.
Would Canada like some resolution with the coaching staff’s status?
“What anybody wants doesn’t matter,” Canada said Tuesday. “We are taking it day-by-day. We said that from the beginning and I think that was a good plan at the time. We are pushing, pushing. We are focused on football (and) going through a grieving process. That is all we can do. We are just working. I don’t think there is any other answer for it. There are people who are making those decisions.”
Canada’s comments came the same day that The Athletic reported a group of McNair’s teammates’ parents is concerned that the university intends to reinstate Durkin.
“We are worried that this narcissistic sociopath is going to come back,” one parent told The Athletic. “To me, he should never coach again.”
Canada has repeatedly said he is proud of how his players have responded to off-the-field challenges. The former Indiana assistant took over the team before the season-opening win against Texas.
“I am certainly not an expert on the grieving process,” Canada said. “I think everyone does it differently. Our football players have worked very hard to manage all of this. Everyone has to go through that (grieving) differently. We are very proud of our players for the way they are doing it; they are playing hard. They come to work every day, they are going to class and doing all of those things they are supposed to do.”
At 2-1 in the Big Ten, Maryland is coming off an impressive 34-7 win Saturday against hapless Rutgers. The Iowa offense should prove to be a much bigger test.
The Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-1) have scored at least 32 points in four of their six games, and have reached the 42-point mark in the last two contests.
Iowa won 42-16 at Indiana on Saturday. Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley has thrown for 15 touchdowns, with six on Saturday.
“What a difference a month makes. And really, what a difference a year makes,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz told an Iowa radio station. “We knew Nate was going to come out and play well this year.”
Maryland lost 31-15 at Iowa in 2015, while the Terrapins beat the Hawkeyes 38-31 in College Park in 2014.