Freshman quarterback Perry Hills sat in the Gossett Football Team House auditorium with an ice pack strapped to his sore right knee and answered waves of media questions about the three interceptions he had just thrown in his first college game.
The questions didn't change — Were you overwhelmed? Nervous? Frustrated? — and neither did the Maryland player's expression.
Hills' best — and most necessary — attribute this season may be his resilience. He appears as stoic and unflappable as an Apollo astronaut.
On Saturday, the quarterback had an uneven performance — 14-for-26 for 145 yards and those three interceptions — in Maryland's 7-6, season-opening win over William & Mary.
Hills, a former Pennsylvania state champion wrestler, may have a lot to learn about reading college defenses, but he appears to understand instinctively the importance of looking forward, not back.
"That's the biggest thing — once you break down there's no coming back from that," he said. "You just have to stay positive."
It's a lesson Maryland coaches hope all the first-year players can learn.
Maryland coach Randy Edsall began his second Maryland season with more true freshmen in important roles than at any time since he's been a head coach.
In addition to Hills, six players made their first career starts Saturday: tailback Albert Reid, safety Sean Davis, defensive back Jeremiah Johnson, linebacker Cole Farrand, nose tackle Darius Kilgo and offensive lineman Nick Klemm.
The work-in-progress Terps are certain to face their share of adversity. The success of the season may rest on how well they can push past disappointment the way Hills did Saturday. Edsall has asked Terps fans to be "patient" with his young team and to support them while they mature.
Among those needing a lift Saturday was freshman kicker Brad Craddock, who missed a 25-yard field goal in the first half. His only other attempt was an extra point.
"He understands it's one kick," Edsall said. "You put it behind you and move forward."
The second pass of Hills' career was batted near the line by linebacker Jabrel Mines blitzing from the edge. It was intercepted by DeAndre Houston-Carson, setting up a Tribe field goal.
"Probably should have read the outside better," Hills said. "There was a little read miscommunication there. I thought about what I did wrong, talked to the coach and then it was behind me."
Through three quarters, Hills had yet to reach 100 passing yards.
But in the fourth quarter, he led the Terps on a 69-yard drive ending with Justus Pickett's 6-yard touchdown run. Hills was 3-for-4 for 41 yards on the drive.
"I thought he played a lot better in the second half of the game," Edsall told reporters Sunday. "He did have the one interception. That was really the only mental error he had in the second half.
"In the first half, there were just some things he tried to force a little bit. What I like is he competed and came back and led our team to a touchdown in the fourth quarter," the coach said.
Hills became the starter a few weeks ago after redshirt junior C.J. Brown suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, ending his season.
Hills was often asked by the media whether he was nervous about his suddenly weighty assignment. He always replied "no."
But he conceded Saturday that he had plenty of "adrenalin" during the game — and waiting for it to begin. The game was a 3 p.m., meaning there was lots of time — too much — to wait.
"I woke up at eight o'clock and then went downstairs, ate, had a team meeting, and then we had a point where there was like a two-hour break," Hills said. "And you're just sitting there just getting antsy, like 'C'mon let's go, let's get this game on the road!'"
Note: Edsall said Sunday that Pickett, a sophomore, would start Saturday's game at Temple, replacing Reid. Reid, who is still expected to play, netted 29 yards on 12 carries against William & Mary.
twitter.com/sunjeffbarkerCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun