COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Maryland’s offense has sputtered over the past two weeks, mainly because of the absence of starting quarterback Perry Hills.
That isn’t the only reason why the Terrapins (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) have scored only 10 points over the last six quarters.
With Hills operating offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s fast-paced attack, Maryland averaged 43 points en route to a 4-0 start. But after Hills hurt his right shoulder in the second quarter against Penn State, the Terrapins’ offense went kaput.
After true freshman Tyrrell Pigrome assumed the role of calling the signals, Maryland was blanked 14-0 in the second half and absorbed a 38-14 defeat. The trend continued last week against Minnesota: The Terrapins made only four first downs through three quarters and staggered to a 31-10 loss.
Hills’ status for Saturday night’s game against Michigan State (2-4, 0-3) remains uncertain. Coach DJ Durkin was non-committal Tuesday, saying “We’re determining the best course of action.”
Pigrome was 5 for 9 for 28 yards at Penn State and 18 for 37 for 161 yards and two interceptions against Minnesota. More significantly, his late touchdown pass was negated by an 82-yard interception return that provided the Golden Gophers with the clinching score.
Although Durkin concedes the loss of Hills has contributed to the decline of the offense, he insisted that Pigrome isn’t entirely to blame.
“I really mean this: It is not all on Piggy,” Durkin said. “There are guys around him who can play better, too. We’ve had plenty more breakdowns than at the quarterback position. But did we kind of lose the rhythm we were in? Yeah, probably.”
Against Minnesota, the Terrapins jumped offside and were flagged for holding on several occasions. And Pigrome got little support from the running game, which totaled 130 yards (71 by the quarterback). Maryland has a combined 300 yards rushing over the past two games after racking up 400 yards on the ground against Purdue to go to 4-0.
The drop-off in production has been a team effort and not in a good way.
“We’re just not really playing up to our standard right now,” tackle Michael Dunn said. “It’s not one individual’s fault. It’s the unit. We can all do a better job.”
Durkin applauded his team after each of the first four games, but questioned their intensity after both losses. He reiterated that assertion on Tuesday.
“My disappointment comes from us not providing our best effort, our best game, for whatever reason,” he said. “We certainly did things to beat ourselves with penalties and turnovers and just sloppy play altogether. I can assure you that will be corrected.”
Maryland had only four turnovers through its first five games before adding three on Saturday. In addition to Pigrome’s two interceptions, Will Likely muffed a punt.
Likely hurt his knee on the play and is questionable against Michigan State, which is stumbling through an uncharacteristically down season. The Spartans have lost four straight, including a 54-40 surprise at home last week against Northwestern.