The Maryland football team is looking to end the first year of the D.J. Durkin era on a positive note.
Just over a calendar year after firing Randy Edsall, the Terrapins find themselves in their first bowl game in two seasons. Edsall led the program to the Foster Farms Bowl, where Maryland was dismantled by Stanford in a 45-21 rout.
The Terps didn’t even come close to the postseason in 2015 after a 3-9 campaign. Edsall was fired midway through the season and was replaced by Mike Locksley, who didn’t fare much better.
A new regime was certainly needed in College Park and Durkin was tabbed as the choice shortly after the 2015 season. He brought in an experienced coaching staff that included Walt Bell (Arkansas State, Andy Buh (Stanford), Pete Lembo (Ball State), and Mike London (Virginia).
With a new energy on campus, Durkin scrambled and put together a solid 2016 recruiting class. Several of those young players ended up seeing the field this season.
Maryland got off to a great start as they jumped out to a 4-0 record. The run included a thrilling double-overtime win over Central Florida and a drubbing of Purdue in their first Big Ten contest.
Then the road got a little treacherous for the Terps.
Maryland only won two games the rest of the way. The Terps topped Michigan State on Oct. 22 in a closely-contested primetime affair at home.
The regular season concluded with a 31-13 win over Rutgers to obtain bowl eligibility. Maryland finished with a 6-6 record and three victories in their conference.
Considering quarterback Perry Hills missed two games and was knocked out of three more, that’s certainly not a bad season under a first-year head coach.
Keys to the Game
- Establish the running game – It’s no secret that Maryland’s offense thrives off their ground attack. The Terps ranked third in the Big Ten with 205.5 rushing yards per game this season. Despite only getting 85 carries, sophomore Ty Johnson still managed to total 845 rushing yards (8.9 yards-per-carry) and four touchdowns. Johnson is as elusive a back as there is when he gets into the open field. In six games in 2016, the former Fort Hill (Md.) star had at least one run of 20-plus yards. Whether it’s on the ground or in the screen game, Johnson can make an impact when he touches the football. If Maryland wants to jump out on Boston College, the Terps need to get Johnson involved early and conjure up creative ways to get the speedy tailback the ball. With the Eagles’ front seven, it’s not going to be easy.
- Keep Hills upright – As was mentioned above, one of the biggest detriments to Maryland was the health of Hills this season. Aside from the Michigan and Ohio State games, Hills may have been able to keep the Terps competitive and maybe even win an additional game or two. When he was on the field, Hills was one of the most efficient passers in the conference. The Pittsburgh native completed 66 percent of his passes and was only intercepted three times the entire year. Turnovers were a huge issue in 2015, but Hills was much smarter with the football this time around. With all that in mind, Maryland’s offensive line is going to have to keep Hills out of vulnerable situations. Hills has left three games early and that’s something that the Terps can’t afford. As Hills goes, so goes Maryland. With Boston College having a ferocious front seven, it’s going to be a matchup to watch all game long.
- Pressure Towles – It’s no secret that Maryland has had a ton of success getting to the quarterback over the past two seasons. After seeing Quinton Jefferson and Yannick Ngakoue go to the NFL in last April’s Draft, the Terps didn’t seem to miss a beat in 2016. Maryland ranked fourth in the Big Ten in sacks (32) and had 2.7 per contest. Junior defensive end Jesse Aniebonam excelled in the BUCK position as a pass rusher as he totaled nine sacks. Linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. also added five sacks and looked a lot more comfortable rushing the passer. Eagles quarterback Patrick Towles isn’t the most accurate signal caller (51.0 completion percentage) and did throw six interceptions on the year. His inaccuracy could play into Maryland’s hands if they can get pressure on him. Towles only topped 200 passing yards twice and had no more than 234 in a game. If the Terps can get in Towles’ face early, it could present turnover opportunities that Maryland hasn’t had a ton of in 2016.
Tale of the Tape
- Points-per-game: Maryland averages 25.4 and Boston College averages 19.0
- Rushing yards per game: Maryland averages 205.5 and Boston College averages 146.8
- Yards-per-carry: Maryland averages 4.9 and Boston College averages 3.4
- Passing yards per game: Maryland averages 174.0 and Boston College averages 141.5
- Third down conversion rate: Maryland converts 35 percent (58-of-166) and Boston College converts 32.5 percent (62-of-191)
- Touchdowns: Maryland has 40 and Boston College has 28
- Red zone: Maryland has scored on 86 percent (31-of-36) and Boston College has scored on 80 percent (28-of-35)
Boston College Players to Watch
- Harold Landry – The star Eagles defensive end is one of the most disruptive forces that you’re going to find in the country. He registered 15 sacks on the year and flat-out has a nose for the football. Landry needs to be accounted for on very play and Maryland is going to have to try their best to seal him off. An extra tight end and the running back is going to be huge because Landry is relentless at getting into the backfield.
- Jon Hilliman – Boston College doesn’t exactly have the most talent at the wide receiver position, but Hilliman is a fantastic tailback. He can really turn on the jets in the open field and sees the field well. Hilliman doesn’t average much per carry (3.0), but he does have the ability to take it the distance.
- Patrick Towles – As was mentioned above, the Kentucky transfer isn’t the most prolific passer in the world. Toweles had just 10 touchdown passes, which is the same amount as Hills, but Hills missed significant time and Towles played in every game. This is a passer that can complete the pass when he has the time. However, the Eagles don’t throw the ball down the field a ton. Again, Maryland’s pass rush getting in Towles’ face is going to be key in this one.
This is a pretty evenly-matched contest. Both offenses don’t exactly have a ton of firepower, but Maryland does have the likes of Johnson and wideout D.J. Moore to rely on. However, it’s likely going to be what defense can get stops when they need to. Boston College owns the top defense in the ACC as they surrender just 310.6 total yards-per-game. Their front seven is very talented, so it’s going to come down to Maryland keeping them on their toes.
The deciding factor is the fact that the Eagles really struggled to score the ball against some very mediocre competition this season. Maryland will make just enough plays to win this one. Hills goes out in style with a solid performance in a 27-21 victory.