Before a wayward blocker took him down with a shot to the back, Perry Hills absorbed sack after sack in the pocket Saturday afternoon, four in all before leaving because of a left knee injury. North Carolina State burned Maryland’s offensive linemen on the right side.
But once Devin Burns entered, everything changed. Burns was sacked once in the second quarter, then spent the game eluding oncoming Wolfpack rushers, pitching to Wes Brown on the option or tucking and running through holes the offensive line opened up.
The Terps’ front five was once again a patchwork affair, yet held up surprisingly well in the second half. Much of the credit goes to the change of pace brought by Burns’ entry and Brown’s legs, but the offensive line did a solid job adjusting to the option-heavy scheme.
De’Onte Arnett returned to the starting lineup at right guard after being benched in favor of Andrew Zeller weeks ago and suffering an ankle injury that kept him out. After Zeller had a lackluster week in practice, Arnett earned the call. He got burned a couple times on the outside and had a holding penalty, but after looking at the film, Coach Randy Edsall came away pleased.
“I thought he did a good job, held up pretty good,” Edsall said. “It’s just a matter of trying to find the right guys. The people who stand out above the other guys, they’ll continue to get those reps. If you don’t stand out, it’s a chance for us to see if someone else can.”
Across the rest of the line, Justin Gilbert finished with a holding penalty and Nick Klemm got flagged for a false start. Both Mike Madaras and Josh Cary, a true freshman and junior respectively, were strong on the left side, protecting Hills’ blindside even before the quarterback got hurt. At center, Evan Mulrooney got his first career start, and held up extremely well in place of Sal Conaboy, save some minor issues Edsall pointed out.
“Communication with the line was good, aggressive in certain things, snaps were all good, and again that’s something we’ll continue to evaluate,” Edsall said. “I wasn’t displeased with how he played. I was encouraged with the potential he has and how much better he’ll get. I do like his leadership and communication abilities on the field.”
During his Sunday teleconference, Edsall praised Burns and Caleb Rowe for their preparation and ability to execute off the bench. The same could easily have been said about the offensive line.