Maryland senior quarterback Perry Hills was playing the best football of his Maryland career --highlighted by improved numbers in just about every category -- but it was another Terrapin quarterback who clinched the Terps’ third victory of the year in double overtime at Central Florida Sept. 17.
After UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton -- who gave Maryland fits all night -- fumbled the ball away in the opening possession of the second time, all Maryland had to do was kick a field goal to leave Orlando, Fla., as winners.
Hills ran to his left on Maryland’s first play of the second overtime session for a 1-yard gain, but a defender landed on him awkwardly, and Hills appeared to bang up his right shoulder. The extent of the injury is not yet known.
True freshman Tyrrell Pigrome, an outstanding athlete out of Alabama, entered at quarterback for Maryland on the next play. He sprinted right, cut back toward the middle of the field and made defenders miss as he scampered into the end zone from 24 yards out to give Maryland a 30-24 victory against UCF in double overtime.
The game served as Maryland’s first test of the season. Though UCF came off an 0-12 season in 2015, new head coach Scott Frost has injected new life into the program, and the Knights posed challenges all night for the Terps. Maryland struggled to run against UCF’s front seven at times and had no success in obvious passing situations. Maryland’s defense struggled to keep Milton from making plays outside the pocket.
The game started in a sluggish manner, with the first three drives of the game for each team totaling five punts and a lost fumble. UCF got on the board first, as a 43-yard run by running back Adrian Killins set up UCF in Maryland territory and the Knights eventually hit pay dirt.
Maryland responded early in the second quarter with an eight-play, 41-yard drive that was capped off by a 7-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Lorenzo Harrison. Hills picked up key first downs on the drive by way of senior DeAndre Lane and sophomore D.J. Moore.
Toward the end of the first half, Maryland was able to get into field goal range thanks to a 51-yard strike from Hills to senior wide receiver Teldrick Morgan. Junior Adam Greene put the Terps up 10-7 at the half.
Outside of their two scoring drives in the first half, the Terps struggled to move the ball, but didn’t commit any turnovers.
The second half began with the Terps missing out on opportunities to build on their three-point lead. Senior defensive back Will Likely returned the second half’s opening kickoff 64 yards, but the drive ended in a missed field goal from Greene.
Maryland got the ball right back, though, after a botched fake punt attempt by UCF. Starting the drive at UCF’s 33-yard line, Hills hit senior wide receiver Malcolm Culmer in stride in the red zone, but Culmer dropped the ball. The Terps eventually settled for a 51-yard field goal attempt, which Greene missed.
UCF took a 14-10 lead with a five-play, 75-yard drive later in the third quarter, which was highlighted by a 71-yard catch-and-run from tight end Jordan Akins.
The Terps, however, bounced back on their next drive with a seven-play, 75-yard march. The drive ended with a 16-yard touchdown run by senior running back Kenneth Goins, which put the Terps up, 17-14, toward the end of the third quarter.
The drive was what Terps fans have already come to love about offensive coordinator Walt Bell. Six of the Terps’ seven plays were runs, with freshman Lorenzo Harrison, sophomore Ty Johnson, senior Trey Edmunds and Goins all getting carries, mostly to the perimeter.
UCF responded right away with a field goal to tie the score at 17. The two teams exchanged punts after that, and a failed Hail Mary pass by Hills at the end of regulation sent the game to overtime.
Hills started overtime with three effective quarterback keepers, the last of which he was nearly untouched into the end zone. On the flip side for UCF, Milton connected with wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith on a third-and-16 for a touchdown to send the game into a second overtime, at which point Pigrome’s heroics took center stage.
More notes from the game…
- Maryland struggled terribly in third and long situations. The Terps’ offensive line and running backs in pass protection were unable to muster much of a defense against UCF’s pressure packages. Maryland was just 4-for-15 on third down.
Hills was 10-for-23 on the day, with many of those incomplete passes coming against heavy pressure in obvious passing situations. When UCF stopped Maryland from gaining chunks of yardage on the ground on early downs, the Knights had a lot of success in stopping Maryland.
- Hills, however, avoided the costly mistake. In obvious passing downs last year, Maryland quarterbacks would often commit turnovers that would sink any chance the Terps had of pulling out a victory. Hills still hasn’t turned the ball over yet this year, while his UCF counterpart made the game-altering mistake.
For Hills, taking a sack under heavy pressure isn’t a bad play, especially not with the punter the Terps have. Freshman punter Wade Lees had eight punts against UCF, and four were downed inside the 20-yard line, including a key one late in regulation.
- Maryland again had a quality ground game, gaining 246 yards on 50 carries, good for a 4.9-yard per carry average. Hills kept the ball 16 times, with the bulk of his yardage coming in the first overtime session. Harrison led all running backs with 15 carries for 77 yards. Johnson carried seven times for 47 yards; Goins, three for 34; Edmunds, seven for 22.
Maryland’s scoring drives generally featured a lot of productive running to the perimeter to keep the chains moving, as the Terps stayed on schedule in terms of down and distance. On less productive drives, UCF’s physical front kept them in check and forced Hills into tough third down situations.
- It was a physical game, as sophomore wide receiver D.J. Moore, junior defensive lineman Kingsley Opara, senior safety Denzel Conyers, Likely and Hills all were key contributors to be shaken up during play. Conyers was injured early in the game and didn’t return. Junior Josh Woods took over for Conyers.
- Sophomore defensive back JC Jackson recorded his first interception as a Terrapin in the second quarter. Jackson is a big, physical cover corner that has been a quality addition to a relatively thin back end after sitting out the first game of the season due to an academic matter.
- Likely and junior linebackers Shane Cockerille and Jermaine Carter, Jr. led the way in tackles. Likely and Cockerille had 14 tackles, while Carter had 11. Likely is never afraid to stick his nose in around the line of scrimmage, while Cockerille and Carter are two active, mobile linebackers that get to the ball with obvious all-out effort.
- Another big-time contributor on defense was Opara, who had six tackles and played a big role in stuffing a running play on several occasions. Opara was praised by defensive coordinator Andy Buh this week as someone who’s stood out for his play.
“Kingsley, holy cow, Kingsley’s really impressed me inside,” Buh said Sept. 14.
- Two more contributors of note were two juniors in linebacker Jesse Aniebonam and defensive lineman Cavon Walker. Aniebonam made three tackles for a loss, which led the Terps. Walker, meantime, had his first career sack.
- After two games in Florida, the Terps have a well-deserved bye week and will host Purdue Oct. 1 at 3:30 p.m.