Indiana, Maryland meet Saturday while in rebuilding mode
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Rebuilding a college football program is usually a slow and difficult task, especially in the Big Ten.
DJ Durkin and Tom Allen know this too well.
Durkin is in his second year as Maryland’s head coach, and Allen is laboring through his first full season at Indiana. Both have seen their teams bullied by the conference elite, yet each remains steadfast in their belief that better times lie ahead.
“It’s a matter of staying the course and just not growing weary in the process,” Allen said. “That’s the key.”
Durkin couldn’t have put it any better.
“When you look at the grand scheme of things, where we’re at, and the adversity that we’ve been hit by, it’s going to make us better in the long run,” he said.
There may come a time when the Hoosiers (3-4, 0-3) and Terrapins (3-4, 1-3) compete with the big boys, but when they meet Saturday, the stakes will be to avoid the cellar of the Big Ten East and move closer to becoming bowl eligible.
“I fully expect them to be highly energized and focused and locked in to go play our best game of the season,” Allen said of his young players.
Coming off losses to Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin by a combined score of 137-48, the Terrapins can’t afford to feel sorry for themselves with five games to go.
“Let’s put aside the ‘woe is me,’ pick it up and go play,” Durkin said. “That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Some things to know about the Indiana-Maryland matchup:
PASSING FANCY: The Hoosiers’ pass defense has been almost untouchable lately — and it doesn’t matter who they play. Charleston Southern didn’t complete a pass, No. 17 Michigan managed 58 yards through the air and No. 18 Michigan State finished with 185 yards. That’s an average 81.0 per game. But it’s not just the secondary that’s played well.
Indiana has limited its last three opponents to an average of 14.7 points, 245.7 total yards and a 20.5 percent third-down conversion rate. And with the toughest part of the schedule in the past, Allen’s goal of having a Top 25 defense is within reach. The Hoosiers are No. 29 in total defense (341.1 yards).
“We just push and I think at the end of the season, we’re going to look and see where we are,” safety Chase Dutra said.
QUARTERBACK SHUFFLE: Former third-string quarterback Max Bortenschlager is showing signs of improvement for Maryland since taking over for Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill, both of whom sustained season-ending injuries in September.
Bortenschlager has thrown seven touchdowns compared to three interceptions and appears far steadier in the pocket in recent weeks.
“I think it is a combination of things,” offensive coordinator Walt Bell said. “Do I think that he is playing much more confident? Do I think he is playing better football? I do. I see him progressing in a positive way.”
FINALLY, A BREAK: It’s not that the Hoosiers are looking beyond Maryland. They’re not. But after playing four of their first seven games this season and 14 of their last 29 overall against ranked foes, the last five games on this season’s schedule look more manageable.
The Hoosiers are 3-0 against unranked teams this season, including a road win at Virginia. Indiana has won six straight games against non-Top 25 schools — a stretch that began with last season’s 42-36 home win over Maryland.
THIRD DOWN WOES: Maryland has played decently on defense until it comes to third down. Over the past three weeks, opponents have converted 25 of 46 third-down plays, including an 8-for-13 effort by Wisconsin last Saturday. “It’s really been an Achilles heel,” defensive coordinator Andy Buh said. “It is something that’s just not happening for us.”
AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indiana contributed to this report.
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