Maryland wide receiver Kevin Dorsey wanted to put the Terrapins’ first loss of the season to rest as soon as he could Sunday morning.
One of the few Terps who could claim to be in a greater rush was quarterback Perry Hills.
“I came in, and he was actually already here before me at 9 o’clock with coach [Mike] Locksley,” Dorsey said. “He was already preparing for the next game, had already looked at the film from the last game.”
Hills, Maryland quarterback-by-necessity, adds to his catalog of experience on a weekly basis. Perhaps nothing he’s faced is quite as imposing as Saturday’s visit to No. 8 West Virginia (2-0), where the Terps (2-1) have not won since 2002.
Last week brought a lesson in how to handle a defeat. Hills was upset after the 24-21 loss to Connecticut and understandably was at a low point in his brief tenure as Maryland’s starter.
Like after his first start, he spent time with his family after the game. He watched film the next day. He figured out what areas he needed to improve in.
And just like that, he was back to work.
“You can’t mope around and say ‘Oh, we lost,’” Hills said. “It can’t ruin you for the rest of the season.”
Make no mistake, this season sets up as a crash course for Hills to learn about defenses, figure out how to recognize where blitzes are coming from, determine the right time to get rid of a ball and understand just how to get himself protected in the pocket.
Junior C.J. Brown’s preseason knee injury left no quarterback on the roster with game experience under center, an unenviable situation for the Terps. Yet even as Hills struggled against Connecticut — he was 5 of 16 for 45 yards and an interception after three quarters — there was never a hint Maryland might opt for freshman Caleb Rowe or sophomore Devin Burns under center.
“Your experience tells you there are going to be mistakes,” coach Randy Edsall said. “All the mistakes aren’t all on Perry. It’s something we have to work through. … We’re committed to him. We’re trying to get two other guys ready in case something does happen. We want him to go out and play and get better and keep learning. A lot of times, you’re not going to replace somebody if you don’t feel there’s somebody as good and ready to go behind them.”
While Hills will invariably make more mistakes this season as he learns on the job, he’s impressed teammates with his personal steadiness since taking over for Brown.
That, and his willingness to learn and move past his first loss, is a long-term reason for optimism.
“He’d rather run through a linebacker than slide any day,” defensive lineman A.J. Francis said. “When you have guys like that, you’re not really worried about their mental makeup. He’s going to be [ticked] for 24 hours like the rest of us were. … A lot of problems older guys like myself have with young kids is they don’t take the game as serious as some of the older guys. You’ve got to love a young guy who takes it that serious.”
Hills promised after Saturday’s loss to prepare more than he ever had for this week’s game. Considering the challenges West Virginia poses and the necessity for Maryland to keep the potent Mountaineers offense off the field, it will be needed.
It also will speed up an already accelerated learning curve for Hills, a Pittsburgh native who figures to have plenty of family in attendance for his most daunting college test yet.
“It’s definitely been a challenge,” Hills said. “This is a great opportunity for me. It’s something I’ve dreamed about. I just have to keep working hard. I know the curve. I have to learn a lot faster than I would have had to if I was a backup right now. That’s life. Sometimes you don’t get what you want. Sometimes it happens differently [than you plan]. You just have to keep going and keep living the dream.”
NOTES: Wide receiver Kerry Boykins (hamstring) and defensive end Keith Bowers (hamstring) will miss Saturday’s game. Freshman Stefon Diggs will start in Boykins’ place.
• Fullback Tyler Cierski (concussion) practiced all week after a one-game absence and is expected to play against West Virginia.
• Edsall said kicker Nick Ferrara “hasn’t really done anything” in practice of late and will visit a doctor in New York on Friday to re-evaluate his injured hip. Ferrara, who had offseason hip surgery, has not played this season.