True freshman Perry Hills suffered three interceptions on Saturday, but kept his composure and guided the game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter on his way to a mixed-results debut in Maryland’s 7-6 victory over William & Mary.
As Maryland’s first true freshman to start at quarterback since Latrez Harrison in 1999, Hills completed 16 of 24 passes for 145 yards and ran five times for 20 yards. His passer rating was 92.4.
Two of Hills’ interceptions resulted from pressure. Hills’ first, on the second pass of his career, came when his short pass was batted by blitzing linebacker Jabrel Mines and was picked off by William & Mary cornerback DeAndre Houston-Carson. Another interception came as Hills was blasted by a defender.
“I wasn’t going to let it fluster me,” Hills said. “That’s the biggest thing. Once you break down, there’s no coming back from that. You just have to stay positive.”
Hills might have had a few other interceptions. When junior defensive tackle George Beerhalter dropped into coverage, he had a clean shot at picking off a short pass over the middle, but dropped it. On a deep post pattern, Kevin Dorsey was closely covered and had to make a good “defensive” play, reaching over the shoulder of a defender to prevent another interception in the end zone.
Hills also had Devonte Campbell open in the end zone in the first half, but threw high and the ball went through the hands of the senior tight end. The mistake was magnified on the next play as freshman Brad Craddock missed a 25-year field goal.
“That’s definitely one that I would have wanted back,” Hills said. “He was wide open in the end zone. It came out high after getting hit.”
But Hills rose when Maryland needed it, guiding a 69-yard touchdown drive. He triggered it with a 16-yard completion to freshman Stefon Diggs, then came the biggest play of the game. On third and 8, Hills rolled right, and threw back to the left on a wideout screen to Dorsey, who broke a tackle and finished off a 22-yard gain to the William & Mary 14.
“We know how good of a player he is and he knows as well,” Dorsey said. “I guess the game was sped up a little bit. He had to relax and play his game. That’s what he kinda did later on.”
Dorsey said that Hills played better when Maryland simplified the offense in the second half.
“We kind of changed things around to give him easier reads,” Dorsey said. “We took some things out that we didn’t think were working — basically just trying to tailor things a little more to the way he works so it’s a little smoother for him.”
Hills can expect to see a heavy rush again next week at Temple (1-0). The Owls made four sacks on Friday night in a win over Villanova and held the Wildcats quarterbacks to 10 completions in 24 attempts for 153 yards.
“[Hills] is young. He’s definitely going to grow from this game,” said guard Bennett Fulper, who threw a key block on Dorsey’s big play. “I don’t think he let this stuff bother him nearly as bad as some of younger kids probably could have. That’s a good thing and he showed perseverance. He kept everybody together in the huddle.”