Terps’ pass­ing game noth­ing fancy

Canada con­fi­dent ae­rial at­tack does ex­ist for run-heavy of­fense

The Star Democrat - - SPORTS -

COL­LEGE PARK (WPNS) — In the sec­ond half of Mar yland’s game at Michi­gan last Satur­day, quar­ter­back Kasim Hill led the Ter­rap­ins on their long­est drive of the day. Hill com­pleted four passes on a 15-play touch­down drive that fea­tured a blend pass­ing and run­ning.

Two pos­ses­sions later, just af­ter Hill threw an in­ter­cep­tion that was re­turned for a touch­down, quar­ter­back Tyrrell Pi­grome stepped in as he has at var­i­ous points in ev­ery game this sea­son. Mary­land scored again, this time in large part thanks to Pi­grome’s run­ning abil­ity. On the drive, he recorded a 42-yard carry and ul­ti­mately scored on a short run.

Those two drives didn’t mat­ter, at least not in the con­text of the game’s out­come. Michi­gan had al­ready sealed the vic­tor y. But in­terim coach Matt Canada said those two se­ries — which fea­tured a mix of run­ning and pass­ing — helped show what Mary­land’s of­fense can be.

That’s why, head­ing into Mar yland’s game against vis­it­ing Rut­gers on Satur­day, Canada’s plan re­mains the same, in­clud­ing the quar­ter­backs: Hill will start, but Pi­grome will play, too.

“We think both of those young men are very, very good play­ers,” Canada said. “And they both cre­ate is­sues for the de­fense.”

The of­fense as a whole had is­sues last week against the na­tion’s No. 1 de­fense, to­tal­ing 220 yards. But the 42-21 loss was per­haps the sea­son’s most stark ex­am­ple of Mary­land’s re­liance on its run­ning game.

Hill com­pleted just 5 of 10 passes for 62 yards along with the in­ter­cep­tion against the Wolver­ines. Pi­grome com­pleted 2 of 3 passes for 11 yards. The Terps ran the ball nearly three times as of­ten as they passed, with 37 rush­ing plays. They ran the ball 16 times on first downs;

their three pass plays in those sit­u­a­tions re­sulted in two in­com­ple­tions and a sack. Mary­land also passed only twice on sec­ond downs.

For the sea­son, the team ranks No. 123 of out of 129 Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion teams with an av­er­age of 127.6 pass­ing yards per game. Al­most all of the teams be­low Mary­land, in­clud­ing Navy, Army and Ge­or­gia Tech, em­ploy some ver­sion of a ground-ori­ented op­tion of­fense.

Taivon Ja­cobs, DJ Turner and Je­shaun Jones are the only Ter­rap­ins play­ers with at least 100 re­ceiv­ing yards through five games. Only Turner and Ja­cobs have more than six re­cep­tions.

“We have a lot of tal­ent on this team, a lot of tal­ent on

of­fense, so it’s just hard to find ways to uti­lize every­body and we’re still get­ting used to that,” said Ja­cobs, whose 13 catches are tied with Turner for the team lead. “Hope­fully look for­ward to more pass­ing down the road, but if not, we’re just go­ing to keep try­ing to win games.”

Canada does want to make sure the play­ers in each po­si­tion group stay en­gaged, which is eas­i­est to do when they’re touch­ing the ball. “We haven’t got­ten (the re­ceivers) as in­volved as we’d like to,” he said.

But any per­cep­tion of of­fen­sive im­bal­ance doesn’t bother Canada.

“Stats are for losers,” he said.

He is fo­cused more on how var­i­ous cir­cum­stances have dic­tated a run-heavy of­fense. The Terps (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) have played a few games in the rain, when run­ning the ball is the prefer­able choice. Other times, Mary­land has had a sig­nif­i­cant lead and run­ning helps bleed the clock. And fre­quently, the run game has been ef­fec­tive, so why aban­don what is work­ing?

“It’s not a panic for us,” Canada said. “I have great faith in our wide­outs. Great faith in our quar­ter­backs. Great faith in our pass pro­tec­tion.”

Canada called Hill a good pocket passer, and said both quar­ter­backs can throw well. Hill has com­pleted 47 of 86 passes for 578 yards, three touch­downs and two in­ter­cep­tions. Af­ter flash­ing some run­ning abil­ity

dur­ing his in­jury-short­ened true-fresh­man sea­son, this year his 22 rush­ing at­tempts have re­sulted in a com­bined loss of 21 yards.

Pi­grome, mean­while, has been more likely to run, with 19 car­ries for 113 yards com­pared to 6-for-11 pass­ing for 40 yards.

Although Hill has taken the vast ma­jor­ity of the snaps in start­ing all five games, Pi­grome’s role is not that of a typ­i­cal backup, com­ing into games in re­lief once Hill’s day is over. The red­shirt sopho­more be­gan last sea­son as the starter be­fore he tore his an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in the opener against Texas. (Hill took over be­fore he tore his ACL in the sea­son’s third game.) Canada has shown com­fort swap­ping in Pi­grome for a cou­ple plays or en­tire drives at a time.

“Pig prob­a­bly hasn’t played as much as maybe we thought at times,” Canada said. “Ob­vi­ously we saw what we could do Satur­day. He got in there and had the big run.”

Canada’s time run­ning Mary­land is off to a lop­sided start (1,181 rush­ing yards against 638 pass­ing), but his of­fenses at other stops have been re­mark­ably bal­anced. In the pre­vi­ous four years as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for three dif­fer­ent pro­grams, Canada’s yardage splits be­tween run­ning and pass­ing have been be­tween 49 and 51 per­cent.

“There will be a game, I don’t have any doubt in my mind, when we throw for a whole bunch of yards and we don’t run for very many and that will be awe­some,” Canada said with a smile. “Be­cause then I’ll come in here and you guys (the me­dia) will ask what hap­pened to the run­ning game and why aren’t you run­ning the ball.”

AP PHOTO

Mary­land quar­ter­back Kasim Hill (11) com­pleted just 5 of 10 passes for 62 yards and an in­ter­cep­tion last Satur­day against Michi­gan.

AP PHOTO

Mary­land run­ning back Javon Leake (20) scores on a 1-yard touch­down run in the sec­ond half last Satur­day against Michi­gan.

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