Just as the new staff drew it up, Terps' offense shows promise in rout of FIU
You just kept waiting for it to happen. Third-and-long, deep in their own territory, it wasn’t not a matter of “if,” but “when.”
Perry Hills — the guy who fueled Maryland’s historically awful turnover rate — was good for at least two interceptions per game last year. On the road, playing against a defense that looked pretty good last week against the B1G’s top offense from 2015, an interception was supposed to come. It was supposed to derail a Maryland drive and make Terps fans wonder once again if there was a better option on the bench.
On this night, there wasn’t.
Maryland’s best option was on the field, converting high-percentage throws and fooling the camera man with long runs on quarterback keepers. He executed Walt Bell’s offense effectively, and most importantly, he was turnover-free in the Terps’ 41-14 victory.
It was obvious that Hills was going to do anything he could to avoid the interceptions he’d become known for.
On his first drive, he was faced with a third-and-goal. Instead of forcing a jump ball into the end zone, Hills checked down and found Ty Johnson, who was stopped well short of the goal line. Bell was shown on camera with a semi-frustrated look on his face. But that’s better than the expletives he would’ve been spewing had Hills squandered a scoring drive with a pick.
And go figure, Maryland settled for a field goal and got a pick-six on the next drive:
In a nutshell, that’s what DJ Durkin wants to establish with this 2016 team. The offense doesn’t try to do too much and the defense thrives on playing fast.
Durkin is going to get credit for breaking Paul “Bear” Bryant’s record for points by a first-year Maryland coach in its first two games. It’s also the most points scored by Maryland in its first two games since 1927.
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Really, that credit should belong to Bell, who did a good job of putting Hills in positions to succeed all night. It seemed like Hills was always throwing to an open receiver. There weren’t many tight windows and the deep balls were few and far between. Even when he did throw more than 10 yards, it was usually to a wide-open DJ Moore, who had a career high with 147 yards and two touchdowns.
Let’s be clear. FIU is a bad defense. Nobody could cover or tackle Moore. Frankly, they struggled to tackle Hills. Lorenzo Harrison and Trey Edmunds could’ve each eclipsed 100 yards if the game hadn’t been so lopsided.
But what else could the Maryland offense have done to impress on Friday night? Sure, it helped that FIU quarterback Alex McGough went down on his pick-six in the first quarter. The Panthers were essentially a one-dimensional offense after that. Favorable field positions and a tired defense certainly helped Hills and company keep Maryland’s foot on the gas.
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Still, this new coaching staff deserves credit. The spread was 11, not 21. It would’ve been easy for the Terps to go down to scorching-hot Miami on a short week and look like a team still figuring out a new offense. Instead, Maryland’s offense put the game away in the middle of the third quarter.
That allowed highly-touted Tyrrell Pigrome to get into the game for the entire fourth quarter. Some might view the exciting freshman as the quarterback of the future, and perhaps they want him to be the quarterback of the present. But the coaching staff squashed any idea that Pigrome would replace Hills even if he struggled. And to his credit, Hills shined.
The Terps now find themselves in favorable position at 2-0 riding two blowout wins to start the season. Their quarterback who threw an interception in every game — and once every 14 attempts — last year is turnover-free through Week 2.
FIU is not Michigan State or Ohio State. The windows to throw will shrink, the pass-rushers will be better and the decision-making will be magnified. The chances of Hills maintaining his 73-percent passing are slim to none. The mistakes will come.
But as Friday showed us, they aren’t likely to come as often as they did in 2015.