Iowa Football

Iowa football: 5 things to know about Maryland

Terps visit Kinnick Stadium on Saturday

Maryland running back Ty Johnson (24) runs the ball against Rutgers on Saturday at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Johnson and the Terps visit Iowa City on Saturday, (USA Today Sports)
Maryland running back Ty Johnson (24) runs the ball against Rutgers on Saturday at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Johnson and the Terps visit Iowa City on Saturday, (USA Today Sports)

After two weeks on the road, the Iowa football team returns home for its annual homecoming game.

The opponent still is a relative Big Ten newbie, making only its second appearance inside Kinnick Stadium.

But Maryland has attracted a lot of attention this football season — and not all of it good.

In June, offensive lineman Jordan McNair died of heatstroke after a summer conditioning workout. Head coach DJ Durkin was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 11 after an investigation revealed a “toxic” atmosphere within the program. Durkin remains on leave, although he still earns $9,600 a week, according to the Washington Post.

A decision on his fate could come Friday, a day before the game in Iowa City, when the full board of regents meet. He also is scheduled to receive a $500,000 quarterly payment on Friday.

Yet, heading into Week 8, Maryland stands 4-2 overall (2-1 in the Big Ten) and owns a 34-29 win over a Texas team that has climbed to No. 8 in this week’s rankings.

Here are “5 Things” about the Terrapins.

Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. (ESPN2).

1. Interim coach

Matt Canada is in his first year on the Maryland staff, hired as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Now the 46-year-old is running the show.

Canada is kind of a coaching vagabond with stops at LSU in 2017, Pitt in 2016, North Carolina State from 2013 to ’15 and Wisconsin in 2012. He’s also coached at Indiana (twice), Northern Illinois and Butler.

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And he, too, has been followed by a little controversy. He came to LSU as the highest paid assistant in the country, but ended up with a $1.7 million buyout after one season. LSU Coach Ed Orgeron has since said hiring Canada was a “mistake.”

“It’s tough when you make a mistake, but it’s even tougher not to admit you made a mistake and it’s just not a good fit,” Orgeron said at SEC media days in July.

But there are those who think Canada is one of the top offensive minds in the game today.

“Anytime you (move to a new job), you grow as a coach,” Joe Novak, who was the head coach at Northern Illinois when Canada spent six of his early years there, told the Washington Post. “You take the good and the bad from every one of those. I think if you stay at one spot as a coach, you tend to get stagnant. The fact that he has moved around, he’s experienced different people, different locations. That always makes you stronger as a coach.”

2. The season

Despite McNair’s tragic death and the investigations that have followed — two still are ongoing — the Maryland players have put together a decent season.

The Terps already matched last year’s win total and are the only team to beat Texas this fall.

Maryland also took down Bowling Green, Minnesota and, last Saturday, Rutgers. It lost to Temple and Michigan.

“We’re sitting here, we’re 4-2 and I’m really, really, really proud of our players and how hard they played and how much they stick together,” Canada said after Saturday’s 34-7 win over Rutgers. “I cannot emphasize it enough.”

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3. Running Terps

Maryland ranks third in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 245.2 yards per game.

It’s a two-back system with Ty Johnson and Anthony McFarland carrying the load. Johnson is averaging 72.5 yards per game, McFarland 66.5.

McFarland, however, is getting a whopping 8.9 yards per carry while McFarland’s at “just” 8.1.

On Saturday, Johnson went over 4,000 total yards of offense for his career, only the fourth Maryland player to cross that barrier. He has 4,096 total yards, including 2,564 rushing — also fourth in school history.

“I don’t really pay attention to it all that much,” Johnson said after collecting 132 rushing yards Saturday, on just nine carries. “My mom’s really the one that pays attention to stuff like that. I just go in ready to play a game. That stuff doesn’t mean anything to me ... well it means something. But as of right now, we had a great win as a team.”

McFarland also had just nine carries on Saturday, collecting 74 yards.

“I think our backs are playing so well — they’re explosive,” Canada said.

4. The defense

Maryland leads the Big Ten with 12 interceptions, including five in Saturday’s win over Rutgers.

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The Terps are third in the Big Ten in total defense (316.5 yards per game) and pass defense (190.2) and fifth in rush defense (126.3).

Darnell Save Jr. had two picks Saturday and leads the Big Ten with four this season.

“I was really excited for our defense,” Canada said after the game. “I mentioned last week that I’m like a cheerleader for our defense. ... They’re around the football and when you’re around the football, good things happen.”

5. History lesson

This is not exactly a storied Big Ten rivalry.

Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014 — after 62 years in the ACC — and has met the Hawkeyes twice. Iowa won the last meeting, 31-15, in Iowa City in 2015. Maryland won the 2014 series opener, 38-31, in College Park, Md.

Maryland first fielded a football team in 1892 and went 0-3 without scoring a point. Known as the Maryland Agriculture College, it went 6-0 in 1893. Maryland does have one NCAA-recognized national championship, in 1953 after a 10-0 regular season ended with a 7-0 loss to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

The school has had several nicknames over the years. They were the “Farmers” and “Aggies” in those early years, and “The Old Liners” after becoming the University of Maryland. In 1932, football coach Curley Byrd suggested the Terrapin name after the diamondback terrapin turtle, which was common to the area.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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