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Bowl eligibility on the line for Terps on Saturday

By: Mitch Lord

maryland-football

Despite losing six of their last seven games, a 4-0 start to the season has put the Maryland football team in the position where they want to be heading into the final game of their regular season. They have a chance at home against Rutgers to win their sixth game of the year to become bowl eligible.

“Nothing would be more pleasing to me, our staff, or team than to handle out business on Saturday and go get a win,” first year Terps head coach DJ Durkin said. “Also, with that, we’ll get a postseason game. That’s our goal, to get that done and be able to reward not only our seniors but our entire team for all they’ve done together.”

Maryland went to bowl games in 2013 (Military Bowl) and Foster Farms Bowl (2014) but fell apart last year, finishing just 3-9. Durkin took in the offseason to re-build the program, an appearance to a bowl game this year would be huge for the future of the Terps, but also a great way to send the seniors out.

“For me, being a senior, it’s definitely pretty desperate. But that’s just because I want to get that one more game in,” senior left tackle Michael Dunn said. “We’re not really looking at it as desperation mode. We’re more so just trying to focus on having a really good week of practice and doing all the normal stuff that we do.”

The Terps have been struggling lately, only scoring more than 10 points three times in the past seven games, and dropping four-straight since suffering a 42-36 loss at Indiana, but the three losses that followed ones aren’t any that should raise any red flags or concerns. Maryland lost to Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska the last three week. Those are three nationally-ranked teams that have blown everybody out.

So while it may not seem like there is much for the Terps to build on after the run they’ve had, they actually feel like they do have something to build on. Against Nebraska the Terps scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, a 92-yard breakway by DJ Moore on a pass from Ma Bortenschlager. And defensively, the Terps held the 19th-ranked Cornhuskers to only seven points after halftime.

“We’re going to try to take momentum from the second half to just go into the Rutgers game and have a lot more energy,” Moore said.

Maryland is a two-touchdown favorite heading into their regular season final against Rutgers, which will kick off at Capital One Field at noon on Saturday, Nov. 26. It’s the first time in over a month they’ve been the favorite in a game and first time since they played Eastern Michigan in 2008 that they’ve been at least a two touchdown favorite against an FBS program. You’d have to go back to their 2004 game against Duke since they’ve been a two touchdown favorite against an opponent in their own conference, or in one of the power conferences.

Of course, anything can happy once game day happens, but it’s hard to think they could have a better opponent when trying to achieve bowl eligibility. Rutgers have lost nine-straight games and have been out-scored 88-0 in their last two against Michigan State and Penn State, respectively.

It took former coach Randy Edsall three years before Maryland became bowl eligible. Durkin might be able to pull the feat off in his first year if they can bounce back from their rough stretch against the meat of their Big Ten schedule.

“You have to regroup and attack every Saturday and do the best you can to win this game. You can’t talk about the last three or four weeks. It’s about the next game,” Durkin said is part of the message he’s sending his team as they prepare for the Scarlet Knights. “Every week is different; every opponent is different. There’s a lot to be excited about and focused on for this Saturday.”

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