Maryland couldn’t make it through the last five seasons without a midseason injury prompting a quarterback change.
It likely will not this year, either.
While the Terrapins await a Monday MRI exam on freshman Perry Hills’ left knee, Maryland might attempt to save a season with an inherently thin margin for error by turning to a sophomore a little more than two months removed from playing wide receiver or a true freshman with four college snaps to his name.
Or it could be both Devin Burns and Caleb Rowe who help the Terps (4-3, 2-1 ACC) complete the season, starting with Saturday’s visit to Boston College (1-6, 0-4).
Coach Randy Edsall had no update Sunday on Hills and deferred on hypothetical situations if he was lost for an extended period. But there was no doubt it was a wrenching development for the freshman, who sobbed as he was carted off during Saturday’s 20-18 loss to N.C. State.
“He was devastated,” Edsall said. “He wanted to go out there and compete. At halftime, he wanted to put a brace on and go out and play.”
If Edsall had a blueprint for his second season, the Terrapins’ resilience and full-game competitiveness could have functioned as cornerstones. But for all of Maryland’s intangible improvements, its options were limited at quarterback when camp commenced and have severely winnowed since.
Expected starter C.J. Brown was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Hills stepped in and predictably provided the medley of results expected from most guys a few months removed from high school.
It wasn’t always artful, but Hills did help coax Maryland to four wins in the first half of the season. And the one thing he could be counted upon was ruggedness; the Pittsburgh native kept going, even after taking 24 sacks.
At least until Saturday, when Hills had his left foot planted after tossing an interception and N.C. State linebacker Rickey Dowdy blocked him from the back. Hills’ knee buckled, ending the day of the man who took 413 of Maryland’s 416 snaps this year before his injury and perhaps ending any chance of a Terp quarterback starting wire-to-wire for the first time since Sam Hollenbach in 2006.
“I’m just disappointed for Perry and very disappointed in the way the block took place,” Edsall said.
Burns handled much of the second-half work, rushing for 50 yards and a touchdown. Recruited to Maryland as a quarterback under the previous staff, he was switched to wideout before volunteering to move back after Brown’s injury.
There will be no surprise factor going forward for Burns, whose elusive presence flummoxed N.C. State and forced the Wolfpack to show greater respect to Maryland’s rushing attack. Nonetheless, he was a capable enough passer to prevent an all-out attempt to stop the run.
“I warmed up enough to get the ball out there quick with some of the quick throws we had built into the scheme today,” Burns said. “Just more working with the first team and I’ll be ready.”
As each game ticked away, it looked like Rowe was headed for a redshirt season. And he probably was, barring a Hills injury.
But when Maryland needed someone to run its two-minute offense with 32 seconds remaining, it was Rowe who got the call. He did his part, moving the Terps 60 yards in four plays to set up 33-yard field goal attempt that ultimately caromed off the left upright.
Rowe sagely deferred to coaches about playing time but was resolute in shrugging off the implications of a burned redshirt.
“I want to play, like any competitor would,” Rowe said.
He may well get his wish. So could Burns.
It could yet be a tag team effort, the once-and-current quarterback and the true freshman ticketed for third-string duty by the second week of camp potentially sharing a battlefield promotion and tasked with salvaging the season after Maryland’s abysmal QB luck struck again.
“We’ll see how the week goes,” Edsall said. “I’m not worried until we get to game time. We’ll have a plan in place. We’ll practice it. We’ll look at what gives us the best opportunity. As you saw [Saturday], we have to have different plans going just because of the situation we’re in.”
—- Patrick Stevens