On Tuesday, following the obligatory mention of this week’s opponent as an opening statement, Maryland Coach Randy Edsall began talking — unprompted — about his quarterback.
“One thing that is really interesting and what stood out to me is when you look at Perry Hills in the fourth quarter,” Edsall said, segueing from talk of Maryland’s nicked-up offensive line. “He’s 24 of 35 for 390 yards and two touchdowns. So when the game is on the line he is performing at his best and again, very pleased about that.”
Nothing new here, yet it’s worth reiterating. Midway through a debut season even Hills never imagined, the true freshman is 4-2 as the Terps’ starting quarterback. All four wins were either decided or clinched in the fourth quarter.
So maybe there’s some truth there. Despite the turnovers and missed reads and whatever other teenage mistakes may befall Hills as he grasps the college game, he’s been able to finish.
“He’s just poised,” wide receiver Marcus Leak said. “Even if sometimes he doesn’t play as well, he keeps his head in it. He’s still telling the team to do this, we can get this win. He’s confident and poised.”
Cliches abound when describing Hills, but the repetition doesn’t make it any less true. After last Saturday’s 27-20 win at Virginia, when Hills’s six-yard touchdown run helped stamp the victory, Edsall called it “a great treat” to have a signal-caller able to make plays in the fourth quarter.
“Perry’s doing his job, making good decisions,” said freshman wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who’s inflated Hills’s numbers on more than one occasion after the catch. “I can see the game slowing down a lot. He’s doing a great job. I’m glad to see him progressing.”
Hills certainly hasn’t burst onto the national scene at the meteoric rate of his heralded classmate, but he’s certainly been steady when necessary. Hills is actually the most efficient in the second quarter, posting his best quarterback rating of any quarter just before halftime, but has engineered game-winning or game-clinching drives against William & Mary, Temple, Wake Forest and Virginia.
The room – or rooms – for improvement are obvious, to the casual fan, coaches and even Hills himself. He’s been sacked 20 times, even though the Cavaliers got to him just once, and has looked shaky on deep balls and zone reads.
“We’re working on that, trying to get some better protection calls so he can stay in the pocket and make better passes downfield,” Leak said. “I think if we get him a little more time, he’ll be fine.”
But the option seemed to take a backseat at Scott Stadium, and Hills actually got some air under a couple long passes, including a nifty over-the-shoulder route to Leak, a 36-yard completion that put the Terps at the Virginia 13-yard line.
“Perry’s getting better,” Edsall said. “We see it, because we know what he’s doing. There are still things he can get a lot better at, and he will. But that’s going to come. The good thing is, I don’t know if I’ve ever been around a tougher quarterback, mentally and physically. get better, and we’ll continue helping him along.
“He’s just got great resolve and great competitiveness. He hates to lose. That’s one thing I do know about him. He hates to lose.”