In its 20-18 loss to North Carolina State on Saturday, Maryland turned in its best offensive game this season, producing 462 total yards, and did it under adverse circumstances, losing quarterback Perry Hills (knee) late in the first half. The true freshman was hurt as he tried to get to N.C. State cornerback David Amerson on an interception return.
But give Maryland head coach Randy Edsall and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley credit. When Hills went out, they had a definite plan how to effectively use both of their backup quarterbacks, even though neither had thrown a pass that mattered since high school.
Employing a run-oriented spread attack similar to what the Terps used last year with C.J. Brown, sophomore Devin Burns completed 3 of 4 passes for 47 yards and rushed 12 times for 50 yards and a touchdown. After the Terps had generated just three points in the first half, Burns directed two drives for touchdowns and another that produced the go-ahead 48-yard field goal by Brad Craddock.
Then trailing 20-18 with 32 second left and the ball at their own 25, the Terps needed a quick-strike score and turned to Caleb Rowe. The true freshman quarterback, in the game because of his superior arm, completed two passes for 50 yards and scrambled for 11 more, guiding Maryland to the verge of victory. But Craddock’s 32-yard field goal try crashed into the left upright and fluttered to the turf, no good.
“I thought that Devin Burns came in and played well as a backup,” Edsall said. “Caleb also came in and executed the two-minute drill with perfection. That is something we have been working on and planned on bringing in Devin if something happened to Perry and use Caleb in the two-minute offense.”
Rowe’s play was eye-opening. He had shown a strong arm in the preseason, but Edsall said Hills was better at handling pressure and making plays when things broke down. On Saturday, Rowe showed he could improvise as well.
“I was not surprised. Coach always preaches to be prepared for whenever your number is called,” Rowe said. “I work hard in practice and today I was ready to play. They were telling me through my headset to get ready to play.”
With Hills’ status pending an MRI, the Terps will have to consider the future without the true freshman. Edsall could be left with a similar dilemma to last year when he wavered between the superior runner, C.J. Brown, and the superior passer, Danny O’Brien.
Edsall wasn’t providing any hints on Saturday night.
“You try to match the plan to their skill level and we know what Devin’s skill level is and what Caleb’s skill level is,” Edsall said. “We have a base of what we know we want to do, but we will fit it to meet our personnel.”