COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Matt Canada expects this to be a “special” homecoming for Maryland, for reasons that extend beyond what happens on the field in a matchup with Rutgers.
Playing the dual role of interim coach and offensive coordinator, Canada has kept the Terrapins (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) in contention for a bowl bid during a season dedicated to fallen teammate Jordan McNair.
McNair died of heatstroke, two weeks after he collapsed on the field during a workout on May 29. Coach DJ Durkin has been on administrative leave since August while the school investigates the culture of the football program.
The team still has managed to forge a winning record — a feat Canada hopes will be acknowledged by those in attendance Saturday.
“It’s a special time. We’ve got some former players that are going to come back and obviously alumni coming back. This is their campus, their school,” Canada said. “We are going through a grieving process, and a lot of our students have been amazing to our players. I’m sure a lot of the alumni that come back are going to be appreciative of how the players have handled the adversity.”
The determination displayed by players means more to Canada than wins over ranked Texas, Bowling Green and Minnesota. It also makes it easier to put losses to Temple and Michigan in perspective.
“You know we want to win more. We want to win them all,” Canada said. “But as far as the way our kids are handling all of this, the way there playing hard, the way they’re playing together, the way they’re going to class, as a staff we are very, very proud.”
The Terps need three more victories to become bowl eligible. With a difficult schedule ahead, Maryland can’t afford to slip against struggling Scarlet Knights (1-5, 0-3), who are coming off a 38-17 loss to Illinois.
Rutgers beat Maryland last year, but the Terrapins have a new look with Canada running the offense.
“Matt Canada has done a really nice job holding that team together and getting to this point,” Rutgers coach Chris Ash said. ‘It’s a completely different style of offense than Maryland has had in the past or what we’ve faced. It’s a run-first offense. That’s what they do.”
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