Much-in­jured Hills hopes to play for Terps on se­nior day

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

COL­LEGE PARK — Dur­ing pregame warmups Satur­day at Nebraska’s Me­mo­rial Sta­dium, Maryland quar­ter­back Perry Hills saw his coun­ter­part for the Corn­huskers, Tommy Arm­strong Jr., dressed in a sweat­suit, then watched as Arm­strong took part only in the se­nior day cer­e­mony.

Arm­strong sat out Nebraska’s 28-7 win with a ham­string in­jury suf­fered the pre­vi­ous week against Ohio State, and Hills had the same van­tage point from the op­po­site side­line. Out with a shoul­der in­jury, Hills watched true fresh­man Max Borten­schlager make his first col­lege start for the Terps.

“I was kind of look­ing around, see­ing if Arm­strong was suit­ing up or not,” Hills re­called Tues­day. “Dur­ing warmups, I didn’t see him. I was like, ‘Man, what is go­ing on? It’s got to be hard on his side ... be­ing a se­nior and not be­ing able to play on se­nior day.’ I was def­i­nitely able to put my­self in his shoes there.”

Hills, a fifth-year se­nior, hopes he doesn’t stay in those shoes this week.

When Maryland honors Hills and its other 21 se­niors Satur­day in the team’s Maryland quar­ter­back Perry Hills, a fifthyear se­nior, has been trou­bled by in­juries in both shoul­ders this sea­son.

reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale against Rut­gers, a player whose ca­reer be­gan five years ago as the open­ing-day starter as a true fresh­man wants more than to just go onto the field with his par­ents be­fore the game.

Nei­ther Hills nor first-year coach DJ Durkin said Tues­day whether the left shoul­der in­jury he suf­fered two weeks ago against the Buck­eyes and the right shoul­der in­jury that has both­ered him for most of the sea­son have healed enough for him to play against the Scar­let Knights.

Asked whether sit­ting out against Nebraska helped him re­cover enough to be able to play, Hills said: “It’s def­i­nitely given me a chance to heal up. But I’m just go­ing to go through­out the week and let Coach Durkin make that de­ci­sion, when­ever that times comes.”

If Hills can’t play, Borten­schlager would likely make his sec­ond ca­reer start.

“Max has cer­tainly put him­self in a po­si­tion if Perry isn’t ready to go. He’s the guy we feel can re­ally func­tion at a high level, move our of­fense,” Durkin said of Borten­schlager, who com­pleted 14 of 29 passes for 191 yards and a touch­down.

“We can op­er­ate the run game as well as the pass game with him in there. We need to have that el­e­ment about us to be suc­cess­ful.”

Maryland (5-6 over­all, 2-6 Big Ten) is hop­ing to break a four-game los­ing streak and be­come bowlel­i­gi­ble. Play­ing at home against Rut­gers (2-9, 0-8), which has lost eight straight, seems a lot less daunt­ing for a young quar­ter­back than mak­ing a de­but be­fore nearly 90,000 fans in Lin­coln.

“We’re re­ally pleased with how Max played last week­end, ob­vi­ously a tough sit­u­a­tion, on the road, a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment, his first real game,” Durkin said. “I thought he per­formed with poise. I know there are some things he would tell you he could do bet­ter, and we be­lieve he could do bet­ter.”

Re­call­ing his own de­but as a fresh­man, when he com­pleted 16 of 24 passes for 145 yards but threw three in­ter­cep­tions as the Terps eked out a 7-6 win over Wil­liam & Mary at home, Hills said: “I think he went out there and did re­ally well. He didn’t get flus­tered. He didn’t go into a hole if he made a mis­take. He just kept grind­ing, kept go­ing. That’s some­thing you re­ally like to see in a quar­ter­back.”

It took five years, and a change in coaches, for Hills to get to that point this sea­son.

But af­ter lead­ing the Terps to a 4-0 start, Hills rein­jured the right shoul­der against Penn State; he had hurt it to­ward the end of a dou­ble-over­time win at Cen­tral Florida the pre­vi­ous game. Hills missed the sec­ond half of the 38-14 loss to the Nit­tany Lions, sat out a 31-10 home loss to Minnesota, led the team to its last vic­tory, 28-17, over Michi­gan State and then was forced out of suc­ces­sive blowout de­feats against Michi­gan (59-3) and Ohio State (62-3).

The left shoul­der in­jury against the Buck­eyes led to Hills’ ex­press­ing a lit­tle dark hu­mor as he talked about hav­ing the shoul­der treated dur­ing the game.

“Hon­estly I went in the locker room and I said, ‘Man, God must not be want­ing me to play or some­thing,’ ” Hills said with a laugh Tues­day. “It was def­i­nitely a lit­tle heart-wrench­ing, that hap­pen­ing. I was like, ‘Any­thing that can go wrong has gone wrong.’ ”

Be­fore the in­juries, Hills was hav­ing his best sta­tis­ti­cal sea­son.

Hills, who still leads the Big Ten in pass ef­fi­ciency, has com­pleted 66.7 per­cent of his passes, and his 10 touch­downs com­pared with just three in­ter­cep­tions is far bet­ter than the 17-20 ra­tio in his first three sea­sons com­bined.

Asked to as­sess his se­nior year, Hills can’t get past the in­juries.

“It’s def­i­nitely been frus­trat­ing,” he said. “Nor­mally, like last year, I took a lot more hits and I didn’t get in­jured. Even if years in the past, there was the one freak in­jury my fresh­man year, I was try­ing to cut back and got blind­sided. It’s been pretty frus­trat­ing. The coaches have done so much for me, it’s re­ally been a bless­ing, an honor just to go out there when I can and have fun with my team­mates.”

Durkin can only think what kind of sea­son it would have been for Hills and the Terps had the quar­ter­back not been banged up for most of it.

“His year would be way more re­flec­tive of the type of player, the type of young man he is,” Durkin said. “And in many ways, our team and our sea­son would be re­flec­tive of that. It’s part of it. He doesn’t look back with re­gret or make any bones about it, nor do we. I’m look­ing for Perry to im­prove this week and get him­self healthy and hope­fully be De­spite his in­juries, Perry Hills, scor­ing a touch­down against Pur­due on Oct. 1, leads the Big Ten in pass ef­fi­ciency. able to help his se­nior class, help his team go get a win.”

Durkin said that Hills’ con­tri­bu­tion to the pro­gram goes far beyond his stat line.

Fel­low red­shirt se­nior Ro­man Braglio, a line­backer who first saw Hills in ac­tion when both wres­tled in high school and Hills, then at Pitts­burgh’s Cen­tral Catholic, pinned one of Braglio’s McDonogh team­mates dur­ing a tour­na­ment, said it’s hard to en­vi­sion Hills’ not play­ing Satur­day.

“I know he’s do­ing ev­ery­thing he can do to be out there Satur­day,” said Braglio, who met Hills on their of­fi­cial visit and has roomed with him for five years. “It means the world to him. If he’s got to fight the train­ers, he prob­a­bly will. That’s com­pletely up to them; it’s their call. They ob­vi­ously don’t want to make any­thing worse.”

Many of those in the cur­rent se­nior class have been through a lot, given the record (15-21 the past three years, 19-29 in the four years Hills has played) and the change in coaches dur­ing and af­ter last sea­son. Hills might have en­dured more than any­one, since he has been here longer.

“It’s been up and down,” Braglio said. “I re­mem­ber when he messed up his knee his fresh­man year, it was hard to look at. You could feel his pain. Af­ter that, he had to get con­fi­dence back in the knee, then he got buried [on the depth chart], a lot of emo­tions in that. He’s the tough­est kid I’ve ever met.”



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