Last year's season-opening win over Richmond hinted at some problems for Maryland football. After the Terps similarly dominated Howard to begin their 2016 campaign, things are looking better, especially for quarterback Perry Hills.
Hills struggled mightily against Richmond last year, foreshadowing the rest of his season. He fared much better against Howard. Offensive coordinator Walt Bell has repeatedly said he's tailored this offense more to Hills' strengths, and the results agree with him.
|Yards (in air)||Left||Middle||Right||All|
|15+||0/0||0/0||1/1, 19 yards||1/1, 19 yards|
|5-9 yards||1/1, 8 yards||0/0||0/1||1/2, 8 yards|
|0-4 yards||1/1, 0 yards||1/2, 0 yards||3/5, 5 yards||5/8, 5 yards|
|Less than 0 yards||6/6, -23 yards||0/0||1/1, -5 yards||7/7, -28 yards|
|All||8/8, -15 yards||1/2, 0 yards||5/7, 19 yards||14/19, 4 yards|
For the most part, he was throwing to receivers who were open and really close to him, but Hills did his job. Half of his completions were caught at or behind the line of scrimmage, and with five more within four yards of that. A net of only four yards passing seems like a scary number, but in this offense, it means Hills is doing what's asked of him. He only attempted one pass longer than 15 yards, but he nailed that one attempt, a 19-yard strike to Teldrick Morgan. On Saturday Hills was throwing to open receivers. As the season goes on, opposing defensive backs will try to make sure they aren't quite so open, and that will be a new challenge for Maryland's quarterback.
Hills has the ability to punish teams with his legs, but he only carried the ball once against Howard. He ran a lot of read option plays and pitched one option to Ty Johnson for a 21-yard touchdown. He didn't need to showcase his running talents this time, but we could see that Friday against Florida International.
Durkin inserted freshman Tyrrell Pigrome in for Hills midway through the third quarter with the score already 35-0, and things got exciting. Let's pump the breaks on any "quarterback controversy" talk just yet, but Piggy's performance was good enough that we could see more of him against FIU. He only played three series before giving way to Max Bortenschlager, but Pigrome (pronounced "Pigrum") showed agility no other quarterback on the team has.
He was also solid through the air in his limited opportunities, completing two 25-yard passes to DeAndre Lane before plunging in from the five-yard line to make it 42-0. Pigrome barely missed an open Tino Ellis for what would have been a 25-yard touchdown, and his other miss came right before his rushing score when he overthrew Malcolm Culmer in the end zone.
|Yards (in air)||Left||Middle||Right||All|
|15+||0/0||2/2, 39 yards||0/1||2/3, 39 yards|
|Less than 0 yards||0/0||0/0||2/2, -6 yards||2/2, -6 yards|
|All||0/0||2/2, 39 yards||2/4, -6 yards||4/6, 33 yards|
This is a small sample size, and Pigrome, a true freshman, could be affected way more than Hills when the Terps play FBS squads that won't overpursue or miss tackles at the rate Howard did. Still, there should be at least an occasional role for Pigrome in this offense. Pigrome's first snap was a designed quarterback run, something we didn't see from Hills during his two-plus quarters of action. If Maryland uses him in the future, it won't be the same way the team uses Hills. If Piggy gets some snaps against Florida International, expect Bell to try and get him the ball in space, where he can really do some damage.
Get ready for more screens
DJ Moore was on the receiving end of some of Hills' most effective short passes. Levern Jacobs and DeAndre Lane provided some excellent blocking at the line on this outside screen, as Moore tiptoed and barely stayed in bounds before dodging a few defenders on his way to a 15-yard gain. The offense then hurried up and ran another screen to Moore on the very next play.
Maryland will -- and did-- run some more complicated screens, but if Moore continues to get this kind of blocking, the above play could continue to be one of the team's most effective options.
It looks like DeAndre Lane should keep his starting wide receiver spot. He took snaps from the slot and out of the backfield, and got free easily on drag routes over the middle. More than half of his receiving yards came after the catch, but he did have one drop. Lane left the game with "concussion-like" symptoms late, but he's probable for FIU, Durkin said on Monday. Receptions were spread out over this group, with running backs getting in on the action as well.
|Receiver||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||YAC||Yards per catch||Yards per target|
The ground game
Oh right, Maryland tallied over 315 yards on the ground, too. Johnson got the start, and he, Trey Edmunds and Kenneth Goins Jr. did work early while Lorenzo Harrison, Jake Funk and Pigrome cashed in later.
|Running back||Attempts||Yards||Yards per attempt|
|Kenneth Goins Jr.||4||40||10|
Every one of Maryland's touchdowns came on the ground, with Johnson's 21-yard rumble the only one longer than 13 yards. The Terps operated out of the shotgun and utilized jet sweeps often. Here's Trey Edmunds taking a jet outside for a 29-yard gain. He got key blocks from pulling left guard Mike Minter, who hit a defensive back, tight end Derrick Hayward, who sealed the edge nicely, and Moore, who kept the cornerback away from the sidelines and allowed Edmunds to get to there.
- Maryland ran no-huddle all day, but the pace Saturday wasn't totally breakneck. The Terps ran 73 plays, six more than they did in their victory over Richmond last season, but seven less than in their win over Rutgers. Number of plays run will be a more meaningful stat when Maryland isn't crushing teams, which should be pretty much all season.
- If tight ends are going to be a big part of this offense, we didn't see that against Howard. Avery Edwards wasn't targeted and the only pass to Andrew Isaacs fell incomplete.
- Neither Caleb Rowe nor Gage Shaffer played quarterback, though Rowe was still the team's holder on extra points.
- Will Likely got stuffed on his only carry, though he didn't play longer than the team needed him to in any phase of the game. Maryland will likely do some more creative stuff to get him in space if he's needed in the future.