It may have taken double overtime and four forced turnovers, but Maryland football squeaked past Central Florida on Saturday night to improve to 3-0. The 30-24 victory sets up for a much happier vibe during the Terps’ bye week, but things weren’t all good for the Terps. Here’s the good and bad from a roller coaster of a game.
QB Tyrrell Pigrome. This dude was on the field for one play, and that play clinched a Maryland victory. In his game-ending 24-yard scamper, the true freshman made between three and six UCF defenders miss tackles, depending on your standards. It was Maryland’s longest run (and second-longest play from scrimmage) of the whole night.
CB Will Likely. The senior posted a team-high nine solo tackles, and tied linebacker Shane Cockerille with 14 total. His lone offensive touch was a 13-yard rush, but one of the more intriguing subplots in this game was how blatantly UCF avoided kicking to him. All the punts went to one sideline or the other, and after he returned the second-half opening kickoff 64 yards, all subsequent kicks were squibbed. This is the return man equivalent of someone like Barry Bonds getting intentionally walked every time up, and while it’s nice to know that Maryland has someone on that level at anything, games are a lot less fun without Likely looming as a threat in this aspect.
P Wade Lees. His 325 yards on eight punts surpassed Maryland’s 323 yards from scrimmage in regulation. One of his efforts pinned UCF at its own 1-yard line, and another three finished inside the 20. The 40.6 yards-per-punt average wasn’t stellar, but none of them found the end zone for touchbacks and only one was returned at all (for nine yards). And the 28-year-old freshman gets bonus points for not unsuccessfully calling his own number on a fake inside his own 40.
QB Perry Hills. Hills didn’t look great, but he wasn’t awful, and was constantly under pressure from UCF’s blitzes. He completed 10 of 23 passes for 127 yards, and over 40 percent of that total came on a 51-yard toss to Teldrick Morgan. His other strikes down the field were both oh-so-close to being hauled in by D.J. Moore. It’s very much worth noting that he didn’t make any catastrophic mistakes or commit any turnovers, and his three read-option runs in the first overtime were things of beauty. With the bye week coming up, the Pigrome fan club has more ammo than it probably should, but there’s no reason to expect anyone other than Hills to start against Purdue, as long as he’s healthy.
Maryland’s rush defense. UCF, a pretty good running team, only averaged 3.6 yards per carry. That’s down from 6.0 against Michigan in its previous game, and from FIU’s average of 5.1 against the Terps last week. The Knights still busted some big runs and converted on a couple of backbreaking fourth downs, though, so there’s still reason for concern about this unit as Big Ten play approaches.
Maryland’s pass protection. Four first-half sacks of Perry Hills is the opposite of ideal, and pressure from UCF also caused more than a few throwaway passes. An offensive line that looked rock-solid through two weeks looked vulnerable for the first time all season. The lack of help meant Hills and the offense couldn’t get rolling, save for a few drives at the end. The running game was a major strength (292 yards on 50 carries), and that’s partially on the guys up front, too, but the passing game was largely stagnant, and Perry Hills shouldn’t catch all of the blame.