News and notes from Maryland’s 31-21 loss to No. 8 West Virginia on Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va.
Point being, Hills again got battered in the pocket, and again kept swinging. Just before halftime, Hills lined up in the shotgun on first down. After the snap, whistles blasted for a Maryland false start. But safety Travis Bell kept coming, blind-siding a vulnerable Hills. There was no flag, and Hills remained down for some time.
“Yeah, it was just the wind knocked out of me,” Hills said.
●Maryland’s mistakes were still there, but Hills is making strides. With a team filled with speedy playmakers like Stefon Diggs — more on him in the Sunday morning review — Hills made smart check-downs.
He still needs work on the zone read, however.
Matt Furstenburg had four receptions for 65 yards, more than doubling his previous offensive output in 2012 on almost all screens, and Justus Pickett was serviceable in a third-down role (four receptions, 27 yards).
“Things are definitely starting to slow down for me,” Hills said. “But there’s so much we can still improve on. I feel that we should have won today, just things we left out on the field are killing ourselves. It’s something we need to quit doing, turning over the ball. Little things that we need to get better on.”
● Linebacker Kenneth Tate — he wants to be called Kenneth now, by the way — made his season debut and immediately had an impact in his return from a knee injury. Late in the first quarter, Tate made a nice play on Tavon Austin at the line of scrimmage, then had a pass breakup.
Tate’s 2011 season was cut short with knee surgery, and he again got sidelined during this preseason.
“I loved it,” linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield said. “I was so happy. It’s great to see him back, great to see him making plays. It just adds a huge element to our defense.”
●Hills completed 20 of 29 passes and looked far more comfortable than he ever did through his first three collegiate games. With fullback Tyler Cierski returning to the lineup from a concussion, the Terps packaged three tight ends on multiple occasions, and even offset Justin Gilbert to the other side for a stacked line.
The rushing numbers weren’t great — 35 carries for 46 yards, including 52 yards on 20 carries by freshman Brandon Ross in his first game back — but the Terps kept possession time down throughout the first half, grinding out the clock and keeping Geno Smith off the field.
“I especially liked how, in the second half, we were able to pick up first downs and control time of possession,” Ross said. “But we didn’t capitalize off it, and that’s what hurt us. I definitely think the run game has improved a lot.”
●Now, about Smith. The Heisman Trophy favorite was good, especially getting rid of the football under pocket pressure and finishing with 338 passing yards and three touchdowns, but the starring role went to Austin, who caught all three scores. Midway through the fourth quarter, he found an open seam for a 34-yard touchdown that sealed the game when the Terps brought the house on a blitz.
● Coach Randy Edsall appeared extremely upset when Hills got blindsided after the whistle, but declined to press the issue when asked postgame.
“Probably not because I’ll get reprimanded,” Edsall said. “I’d rather not say anything because I really don’t need to be fined or reprimanded so I’ll leave it at that.”
In a similar vein, Edsall said he did not consider challenging Marcus Leak’s fourth-quarter fumble, which ended a solid drive after a 25-yard gain that brought the Terps into Mountaineers territory.
“I don’t know why anybody challenges anything,” Edsall said. “We have a system in place in college football that every play is reviewed, so why challenge anything? They are up there reviewing it, so to me, why should a coach even have a challenge?”
● For as much that was made about the hostility and noise former Maryland teams encountered at Mountaineer Field, the volume didn’t seem to affect the Terps offense too much, save an early delay-of-game penalty.
“The refs were winding the clock really fast, something I wasn’t used to,” Hills said. But we had noise blasting at our practice all week to prepare for the noise. Just had to go up to the line, make the call.”