In case you missed it, Maryland football suffered through a hellacious season at the quarterback position in 2017. No one could stay healthy, and five different QBs attempted non-garbage time throws.
Maryland’s first two games of the season featured excellent quarterback performances from an offense operating on all cylinders. That’s something Maryland fans haven’t been able to say for the past few years, but it’s true.
Against Texas, Tyrrell Pigrome averaged a gaudy 14.6 yards per attempt on 9-for-12 passing before an ACL tear ended his season. In parts of three games before his own ACL tear, Kasim Hill was 18-for-21 with an average of 10.3 yards per attempt.
What followed was often hard to watch, because that‘s what happens when most teams are relegated to their third, fourth and fifth options. Maryland averaged six yards per attempt or fewer in seven of its final 10 games, including a 16-yard effort on 3-for-13 through the air against Ohio State.
The Terps only won two more games after their 63-17 domination of FCS school Towson in Week 2, finishing 4-8.
Maryland fans were naturally left to wonder: What would the season have looked like if at least one of those two QBs stayed healthy?
It’s a question with a beautifully unknowable answer, but let’s try to figure it out anyway.
Maryland won its first two games, so we can skip those.
Maryland 51, Texas 41
Maryland 63, Towson 17
UCF 38, Maryland 10
The Knights were terrific, even though we probably didn’t know it at the time. Maryland wasn’t beating them even if Hill stays healthy. Maryland falls to 2-1 anyway.
Maryland 31, Minnesota 24
Let’s keep on going. Maryland’s at 3-1 after this win.
Ohio State 62, Maryland 14
Only passing for 16 yards is bad. But Ohio State was going to run through Maryland anyway, so it doesn’t affect the bottom line. Still a loss. In this alternate history, Maryland’s still 3-2 at this point.
Northwestern 37, Maryland 21
This game wasn’t as close as the final score indicates, with S&P+ giving Northwestern a 99 percent postgame win expectancy. Max Bortenschlager was forced into 38 attempts as Maryland tried to stay in it. That would have been a Herculean ask for any Maryland quarterback. Hill and Pigrome both succeeded in moderation alongside a steamrolling rushing attack, so we don’t know how they would have fared if they were asked to carry the team. Maybe they would have made it a 37-31 game, but I still don’t see a quarterback change reversing this one. Maryland’s 3-3.
Wisconsin 38, Maryland 13
Wisconsin’s defense, ranked No. 3 in S&P+, was likely going to rough Maryland up no matter what. The Badgers played a cupcake schedule in the Big Ten East, but lost exactly one game all season. That was to Ohio State, and it was by six points. The Terps were outmatched here. They drop to 3-4.
Maryland 42, Indiana 39
This was fun as hell and I still don’t really know how it happened. Maryland is 4-4.
Rutgers 31, Maryland 24
Okay, here we go. This one seems like it could have actually gone Maryland’s way with a heathy QB behind center. Bortenschlager and Ryan Brand combined to go 19-for-32 for 218 yards. Not terrible, but it’s conceivable a better quarterback could have turned this in Maryland’s favor. Even bringing up the yards per attempt from 5.9 to something like 8 would have give the Terps a much better chance to win against a team that was demonstrably awful. Let’s call this one a win. Instead of being 4-5, Maryland moves to 5-4.
Michigan 35, Maryland 10
Michigan faced quarterback injury difficulties of its own, but even good quarterbacks had trouble moving the ball against Michigan’s stout defense in 2017. This one stays a loss. Maryland is 5-5.
Michigan State 17, Maryland 7
Here’s a tough one. Maryland had no business staying with a team that S&P+ ranked No. 27 in the country. Even getting to within 10 points required Spartans QB Brian Lewerke going 2-for-14 through the air in some miserable weather. Offense was going to be hard to come by against a tough defense and some tougher conditions, so I’ll keep this as a Michigan State win. Maryland sits at 5-6.
Penn State 66, Maryland 3
Maryland still finishes at 5-7. That’s only one more win than it had in real life.
There are, of course, a lot of factors at play in this hypothetical simulation. For starters, the sample sizes on Pigrome and Hill are small enough that we really don’t know how they would have performed over an entire season. All we know is that Maryland’s season quickly went bad before a hard schedule even got the chance to make that happen anyway.
We also can’t know the answer because nothing happens in a vacuum.
An ineffective passing attack means the rushing game suffers. Combine that with a defense that couldn’t stop the run or the pass and a schedule full of some of the best teams in the nation, and that means big deficits early on in games. Big deficits early puts more pressure on the passing game, and incomplete passes compound that problem by giving the ball right back to the opponent.
This is all to say that while healthy quarterbacks would have helped a good deal in 2017, Maryland had a good deal of issues elsewhere too.
What do you think?
Let us know below.