Perry Hills and assistant Greg Gattuso enjoyed the aftermath of Saturday’s win over William & Mary. (Doug Kapustin/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

But that’s part of the learning process both for the true freshman and for his coaches, neither of whom even expected to be in this position to begin with.

Hills threw three interceptions against William & Mary and looked skittish at times in the pocket, but still directed Maryland’s game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.

“Perry just goes about his business,” Edsall said. “He knows he has a lot of things to work on and improve, but he is one of those guys who can put it in the rear-view mirror pretty quickly.

“His demeanor and his approach have been very good. It’s what you expect from a freshman for his first start, to learn from it, make the corrections, and work to get better at the things you can control.”

Hills received some advice from wide receiver Kevin Dorsey, a leader on an offense besieged with injuries and littered with young talent. You’re here for a reason, Dorsey told his quarterback, and just as capable as any. Every day, Dorsey preaches the “five P’s” to Hills: Proper preparation prevents poor performances.

“He came in and probably thought he was going to take a year off, but he ended up getting thrown in the fire pit early,” Dorsey said. “You study the film, you do everything you need to do, you go out and perform the way you should every week.”

After the Terps won the coin toss and elected to receive, Hills had his second passing attempt tipped at the line and subsequently intercepted, on Maryland’s second play from scrimmage.

In hindsight, Edsall said, he probably would have deferred rather than receive. He felt confident in Stefon Diggs fielding the return — William & Mary kicker Drake Kuhn wound up booting the kickoff out of the end zone — and immediately opening with Hills under center, given the ability he saw from the Pittsburgh native during preseason practices.

“Perry just trying to do something he shouldn’t do,” Edsall said of Hills’s miscues. “Not every play has to be a touchdown. It was more of the reads than anything else. We have a better feel for him and how much we can do with him.”

Noticeable improvement from WR Leak

● Confidence and maturity have contributed to the intangible growth of wide receiver Marcus Leak, Edsall said. Leak, who led the Terps with three catches and 37 yards against the Tribe, had 12 catches for 85 yards and one touchdown as a freshman in 2011.

“He is a really strong kid and he does grasp the concepts, and I think he understands that you have to work hard all the time,” Edsall said. “I think that was one of the things that he had to learn. He was a gifted athlete and you may be able to get away with not working as hard as you should and still be very productive. When you get to this level that does not happen.”

On Hills’s second interception, when the quarterback let loose an errant pass while he was getting sacked, Leak chased down Brian Thompson at the Terps 9-yard line.

“That might have been the most important play of the whole game,” Edsall said. “If they had scored a touchdown there, it’s 10-0. Who knows what’s going to happen? That’s the difference.”