Without much help, Terps freshman QB Hills puts a lot on his shoulders

Maryland needs to do a better job protecting Hills than it did in Saturday's loss to Connecticut

  • Terps quarterback Perry Hills eludes UConn defensive end Trevardo Williams and defensive tackle Rayn Wirth (53) on a 10-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Huskies beat Maryland, 24-21.
Terps quarterback Perry Hills eludes UConn defensive end Trevardo… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
September 15, 2012|Peter Schmuck

COLLEGE PARK — The hurt and disappointment was written all over the face of freshman quarterback Perry Hills. He couldn't hide that the way his uniform hid the welts and bruises that must have been all over his body after the pounding he took in Maryland's 24-21 loss to Connecticut on Saturday afternoon at Byrd Stadium.

So, head coach Randy Edsall had to take him aside after the Terps' first defeat of the young season and remind him that it takes a lot more than one guy to win a major college football game, especially when that one guy spent most of the game with UConn defenders draped all over him.

"He said, 'It's a team sport and you can't put it all on yourself,'' said Hills, who was just 10 for 24 passing for 109 yards and one touchdown. "It's not on one person, but I don't take any loss well. I hate losing. I'm not going to ever accept losing. I just need to put this behind me now and learn from it."

There's at least one thing that everyone needs to learn at this point in what figures to be a roller-coaster year. It wouldn't have mattered if Danny O'Brien were out there instead of playing for Wisconsin. It wouldn't have mattered if C.J. Brown were healthy. The Huskies blitzed from every direction, sacked Hills six times and forced him into a couple of turnovers. All things considered, he deserved credit for still being on his feet in the fourth quarter to stage a late comeback attempt that came up a few plays short.

"They brought the pressure,'' Edsall said. "It was a combination of things. We have to get the ball out of our hands a little bit quicker. We have to sustain blocks a little bit longer. They had a game plan where they wanted to put a lot of pressure on our young quarterback. We have to do a better job to pick those pressures up."

Of course, it would be a little easier if last year's two starting tackles — Max Garcia and R.J. Dill — had stuck around instead of transferring, and if right guard De'Onte Arnett wasn't playing Saturday on a sore ankle. But Edsall is trying to shepherd a very young team through what promises to be a very difficult schedule, and he'll have to find a way to keep his kid quarterback upright next week at West Virginia. No small trick.

"We're going to have to take a look at the things we saw today and figure out how we can help him,'' Edsall said. "It might be about protections. We will evaluate our personnel, but I don't see anything from a personnel standpoing that we would do. We have to keep coaching him up. He is going to be a good player.

"We have to get him to get the ball out of his hand a little quicker and make sure he is making the correct reads. It is something that we as coaches have to do a better job, and everyone on offense has to do a better job."

The Terps still have a winning record (2-1) after squeaking by William and Mary in their home opener and upsetting Temple on the road last week, but it would have been a real plus to head into one of the toughest games of the year with a 3-0 record. They might have been able to do that if their two-minute drill had not unraveled on their final possession, but senior receiver Kevin Dorsey applauded the way Hills kept his head and kept them in the game.

"He has great poise,'' Dorsey said. "He is able to stay in the pocket. He took some hits today. There were times when guys were open, but he was taking those hits. He wanted to get the ball to them, but he couldn't. There were times when he might have misread it, but he's keeping his head in it. I told him to keep his head up. I know it hurts, but he'll push through."

Hills seemed to understand all that on an intellectual level, but not on an emotional one. Even after Edsall and some his teammates counseled him on the importance of remembering that football is a team game, he still appeared determined to bear the weight of his team's fortunes on his young shoulders.

"This whole week, I'm going to prepare like I've never prepared before," Hills said. "I don't accept losing. I don't like losing, but I promised my team and everyone that I am going to prepare like I've never prepared before for this next game."

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck in his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" on baltimoresun.com and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" Fridays at noon on WBAL (1090AM) and wbal.com.

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