It wasn’t pretty, but the job was done.
The Maryland offense struggled all afternoon. Freshman quarterback Perry Hills, making his first ever start on the college level, tossed three interceptions and had difficulty piloting the offense.
At the start of the fourth quarter, however, Hills found a groove. The frosh completed a number of passes, none more significant than the screen to Kevin Dorsey that set up Justus Pickett’s go-ahead six-yard touchdown.
Hills went 16-24 with three interceptions in his first start. Wet behind the ears would be an understatement.
But he did show poise on that scoring drive. As did Pickett, who was beat out by Brandon Ross for the starting running back job. And with Ross injured and Albert Reid drawing the start, Pickett was just supposed to be a backup entering today’s game.
Despite the offensive woes, defense played the role of hero and punter Nathan Renfro was crucial to the win.
Time after time, Maryland’s defense was put in an unfavorable position due to the offense’s four turnovers. Still, the unit relinquished just two field goals.
Renfro, who got the nod over Aussie-style punter Brad Craddock, had punts of 47, 48 and 60 yards.
Renfro’s final punt was a 57-yarder which situated the William & Mary offense on the 1-yard line on the team’s final possession.
Ninety-nine proved to be too difficult to navigate, especially with the Terps locking down as time drizzled down.
Jeremiah Johnson ended the game by forcing second-string Tribe quarterback Raphael Ortiz to fumble, and Demetrius Hartsfield recovered the rock and sealed Maryland’s first victory of the year.
Already, the team is halfway to their win total from a season ago.
The game began as poorly as it could for a true freshman. Hills' second pass attempt of the year was tipped by a William & Mary defender and intercepted.
In the ensuing position, the Tribe marched down the field took an early 3-0 lead.
The Terps' second possession was overly conservative. Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley was clearly worried about Hills' psyche after throwing the early pick, so the team ran up the middle two straight plays.
William & Mary seemingly predicted the play calls, clogging the holes and putting Maryland in a 3rd-and-long situation. Maryland was unable to convert.
On Maryland's third possession, a heavy Tribe blitz led Hills to throw a dart right into cornerback Brian Thompson's chest. Interception total: deuces.
Maryland's second turnover of the quarter gave the Tribe a 1st-and-goal on Maryland's 9-yard-line.
William & Mary capitalized with their second field goal of the quarterback, giving them a 6-0 lead, all off of Hills interceptions.
In the team's final possession of the half – perhaps the team's most promising yet — Hills completed a 20-yard strike to Marcus Leak. Soon after, though, freshman running back Albert Reid — who drew the start for the injured Ross — fumbled.
However, do-it-all defensive lineman Joe Vellano snagged an interception.
Maryland marched down the field, with contributions from a very elusive Leak, the option game featuring Pickett and Hills, and a long grab by Kerry Boykins.
Unable to convert in the red zone, the team looked to settle for a field goal. But on Craddock's first attempt on the college level, he sent a 25-yard attempt wide left.
The third quarter was uneventful, to say the least. The only lowlight included Hills' third pick, a complete misthrow intended for Dorsey but landed in the lands of the William & Mary safety.
Hills and Co. marched down the field in the fourth quarter. Hills threw a series of completions to Stefon Diggs and Reid before his screen to Dorsey broke loose and put Maryland in the red zone for just the second time all afternoon.
There, Hills did his best C.J. Brown impression and brought the Terps offense to the 6-yard-line, where Pickett took a sweep handoff to the left pylon for the team’s first points of the year and the first and last lead of the game.
Other high points included a Darius Kilgo sack on Brent Caprio, the Tribe’s starting quarterback who left midway through the second quarter with a shoulder injury. Kilgo looked good, as well as Cole Farrand, who made a crucial tackle for a loss on a third-and-1 with the Tribe driving.
Aside from the Terps’ lackluster offense, cornerback Dexter McDougle struggled. The No. 1 corner drew three pass interference penalties, and on the drive immediately following Maryland’s touchdown lost track of a receiver who ended up dropping what would have been a go-ahead score.
A crowd of 31,325 was on hand to see Maryland kick off against William & Mary, the smallest crowd for a home opener in 15 years, when 30,1000 showed up to see Maryland v. Ohio. As expected, about half of the stands emptied by the half.
But with the lackluster offense and the punter being the highlight of the game, can you blame them?
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