This was the measuring stick for Maryland.
The Quick Lane Bowl against Boston College. This was going to give us some insight as to how much progress the Terrapins had made under D.J. Durkin during his first season in College Park.
And it did just that. How it unfolded wasn’t necessarily the most appealing thing to watch the day after Christmas, but it was the gift we expected to receive nonetheless.
It wasn’t an ideal start for the Terrapins, who finished the year 6-7 after the 36-30 loss in Detroit. After the first quarter, Maryland had netted just one total yard of offense, despite opening the game with a 12-yard gain on the first play. Boston College’s defense was too dominant and the offensive line was outmatched by a stout defensive front.
Early in the game, the Eagles took a 16-0 advantage.
But credit Maryland. The Terrapins kept throwing punches. They whiffed on some of those – like having the ball first and goal at the 2-yard-line, running 10 plays and still failing to score – but landed a few blows, too.
Ty Johnson had his best performance of the year. Maybe not statistically, but the back closed out his sophomore campaign with 159 yards and two TDs on 15 carries against the nation’s eight-best rush defense. He was the only reason the Terps hit the scoreboard in the first half, with touchdown runs from 62 and 30 yards out.
If you didn’t believe it before, Johnson is going to have a bright future as a B1G back.
The third quarter started similarly to the first. On Maryland’s first possession of the second half, Perry Hills fumbled a handoff to Johnson, resulting in a Boston College recovery in the end zone that gave the Eagles a 36-13 advantage.
Even after that catastrophe, the Terrapins continue to scratch and claw.
Hills tossed a pair of touchdown passes on the following drives – a 63-yard TD pass to Teldrick Morgan and a 52-yard pass for a score to Levern Jacobs – to keep Maryland’s hopes of a winning season alive.
Ultimately, though, Maryland’s fight fell short. It looked outmatched from the start. For the game to be determined by a single score is a holiday miracle in itself.
Maryland showed the fight it takes to compete in the B1G. The Terrapins have adopted Durkin’s never-give-up attitude and it nearly helped erase a 23-point deficit in the second half. But the skill level still isn’t there. Not yet.
That was evident from the opening kickoff. Outside of Johnson, Maryland didn’t have an answer for Boston College’s defense. It didn’t have the talent to battle with a middle-of-the-road ACC squad. And yet, Durkin’s bunch found a way to hang around.
Durkin’s rebuilding process isn’t going to be magically constructed overnight. This won’t be a team that competes for a B1G title in the short term. The players necessary to contend with Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State aren’t in College Park.
But Durkin’s message is being heard. That’s half the battle – maybe the most important one, really. It’s what allowed Maryland to win six games this season without much talent. It’s what almost helped bring a bowl trophy back to the University for the first time since 2010, even after a three-touchdown deficit.
Even after a loss, that’s something Maryland can build on this offseason.