Terps want to see how Hills plays under pressure
Fifth-year senior QB has excelled in two blowouts
COLLEGE PARK — Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell has been pleasantly surprised with the performance of quarterback Perry Hills, particularly when considering how inconsistent and turnover-prone the fifth-year senior has been throughout his career.
Hills, who completed just 90 of 180 passes while throwing 13 interceptions and eight touchdown passes in nine games last season, has connected on 27 of 37 passes (73 percent, ninth in the Football Bowl Subdivision) this year and has not thrown an interception. He had three touchdown passes in last week’s 42-14 win at Florida International.
After seeing his quarterback play well in t wo straight blowouts — the Terps beat Howard, 52-13, in the opener — Bell would like to see how Hills performs under pressure. That might finally happen Saturday night, when Maryland (2-0) plays Central Florida (1-1) at Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando.
“These first two games have kind of been tailor-made for his skills,” Bell said Wednesday. “As our opponents, starting with Central Florida, get tougher and tougher and tougher … I’d like to see him get put in some adverse situations.”
Bell said he would like to see what Saturday, 7 p.m. TV: CBS Sports Network Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM Line: Maryland by 91⁄
might happen if Maryland falls behind in the third quarter and Hills has to “find a throw” on a crucial third down, or if Hills has to “put the team on his back” down the stretch, though Bell was quick to add, “I hope we don’t have to find that out very soon.”
Hills said with a smile that Bell joked Tuesday about how mistake-free his quarterback has been.
“He was like, ‘Man, I can’t wait for you to throw an interception to see how you react,’ ” Hills said Wednesday. “Obviously he doesn’t want me to throw any interceptions … a tipped ball, something will happen. You can’t go down in the tank, you’ve just to completely forget about it and play the next play.”
Hills credits his high percentage of completions to teammates as well as to the team’s 31-year-old offensive coordinator.
“Guys making plays,” Hills said. “Coach Bell calling really good plays for me, then just executing the reads I’m supposed to. … He does a great job in preparing us to know exactly all the plays we have [in the game plan] and to be ready for when they are going to be called.”
Bell said he has seen Hills’ confidence over the course of the preseason practices as well as the first two games of the season. It was a year ago that Hills was benched in the fourth quarter of a home loss to Bowling Green, and it took him a few weeks — and coach Randy Edsall’s firing — to become entrenched as the No. 1 quarterback.
It didn’t hurt that along with completing 13 of 18 passes for 210 yards — including touchdown passes of 40 and 45 yards to sophomore wide receiver D.J. Moore, as well as a 9-yard touchdown to junior tight end Derrick Heyward — Hills and Moore connected for a 21-yard flea-flicker.
“Coach Bell is always going to call a bold game and keep defenses on their toes,” Hills said. “We always might have one or two things that we can bring into a game that may or may not get called. We’ll always have something planned out for each week.”
Hills was a bit concerned about whether the trick play would work.
“All through practice he kept on underthrowing me or making me stop,” Hills recalled. “I was like, ‘Dude, I have terrible hands as it is, make it a little easier on me.’ He got the ball, hit me in the chest and it ended up being a pretty good gain.”
There was even more of a worry after Moore let it go.
“I lost the ball for a second in the lights,” Hills said of his first career reception. “I was like, ‘Oh, God.’ I was wide open, so you’re thinking, ‘Please don’t drop this.’ I made the catch and picked up a couple of yards.”
Hills is clearly the starter for the third straight week, with true freshman Tyrrell Pigrome the backup. Barring injury, it appears Hills will be Maryland’s quarterback unless the recurring mistakes he made in the past start popping up on a regular basis.
Given what he saw on tape from Central Florida’s 51-13 loss at Michigan last Saturday — a game Bell and Maryland coach DJ Durkin said was more competitive than it looked — Hills believes that the Terps will be in for the toughest test of the season. Barring injury, it appears fifth-year senior Perry Hills will remain Maryland’s quarterback.
“You can see them flying around hitting,” Hills said. “They’re a tough, physical team, and we’re going to have to prepare very well this week to get out and have a good day.”
Five-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda was called for two penalties Sunday.