ORLANDO, Fla. — Maryland is attempting to rebuild its football program and first-year Terrapins coach DJ Durkin isn’t looking for perfection.
He just wants a team that will continue to fight.
The Terrapins, playing a UCF team they should have dominated, needed every ounce of resolve to escape with a much tougher than expected 30-24 double-overtime win on Saturday night. Maryland got the win when freshman backup quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome entered the game for his only play under center and ran 24 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
Pigrome replaced starting quarterback Perry Hills after the senior injured his shoulder in the second overtime.
“That’s our team, we will figure it out somehow,” Durkin said. “It can be ugly or whatever it is.”
Maryland improved to 3-0 and begins Big Ten play in two weeks.
This one was definitely full of miscues and missed opportunities for both programs. But after failing to convert on two second-half field goals and going into overtime tied 17-17, the Terrapins made fewer mistakes as Hills moved the offense efficiently.
It was the exact opposite for Knights freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton, who made his starting and playing debut Saturday. Filling in for injured senior Justin Holman, Milton fumbled the ball six times, losing three and he also threw one interceptions.
But his most costly turnover came in the second overtime he fumbled the ball away at the 2-yard line on what appeared to be an incomplete pass but the officials ruled it a fumble. Maryland did not have a turnover for the third straight game this season.
“We kind of drew out a screen to the right, trying the get the tight end to the back side,” said Milton, who completed 21 of 36 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns. The ball “kind of just slipped out.”
Three plays later, the Terrapins seized on the opportunity after squandering chances early in the game. Hills, who faced constant pressure all night from the UCF defense, threw for 127 yards and was sacked five times. Freshman running back Lorenzo Harrison led a contingent of Maryland running backs with 77 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries.
“It was exciting,” said Maryland running back Kenneth Goins. “Obviously not a place we want to be, we expected to do better than we did but it was exciting. We pretty much trained for this type of environment. So we just go out and play.”
Maryland: The Terrapins may not be as explosive offensively as they looked in their first two games. They had scored 93 points to start the season, but facing tougher and faster defense than they had against Howard and Florida International proved to be problematic. Hills was pressured and hit often, and was sacked four times in the first half.
UCF: Freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton was the surprise starter for the Knights and while he did some positive things he put his team in the hole with costly turnovers in the first half. He committed three turnovers in the first two quarters, two as a result of bad exchanges with the center. His fourth turnover, one of six fumbles, opened the door for Maryland to win the second overtime.
Maryland: The Terrapins are heading into a bye week before opening their Big Ten schedule at home against Purdue.
UCF: The Knights hit the road next week to face Florida International in their last non-conference game. Then UCF will open up AAC play on Oct. 1 at East Carolina.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org