Given the attention Maryland and freshman quarterback Kasim Hill received after a season-opening win at then-No. 23 Texas last week, the expectations were certainly raised and the scrutiny on the Terps significantly greater in the team’s home opener against Towson.
Neither Hill nor the Terps disappointed Saturday at Maryland Stadium.
Despite some shaky moments on defense, the Terps scored their most points since 1954 in a 63-17 victory over the Tigers and have now scored over 50 points in each of their first two games for the first time in school history.
Hill, who took over when sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome suffered a season-ending torn ACL against the Longhorns, picked up where he left off in Austin by completing his first eight passes. He completed 13 of 16 passes overall for 163 yards and two touchdowns — both to junior wide receiver D.J. Moore.
“I thought Kasim did a great job taking the team down the field on that first drive and making good decisions with the ball,” said second-year coach DJ Durkin, whose Terps scored on their first three possessions to build a 21-0 lead. “We wanted to come out and get some good throws in with him, and he certainly did that.”
Hill also showed an ability to run out of the pocket, finishing with 41 rushing yards on five carries. If anything, the big-play abilities of Hill and some of his teammates limited the freshman’s snaps, as did the fact that Durkin replaced him late in the third quarter with sophomore Max Bortenschlager.
After his first drive took seven plays, with Hill finding Moore for a 9-yard touchdown, the second drive took just four plays with him hitting Moore for a 34-yard score. The third drive lasted just one play, with junior running back Ty Johnson going 74 yards for a touchdown. Johnson also scored on a 46-yard run in the third quarter to finish with 124 rushing yards on five carries. Moore added a 21-yard touchdown run on an end-around.
“There are some dudes on that team that are fun to watch,” Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. “They aren’t good football players; they are exceptional football players. I think I’ve got some good football players that are going to build themselves into exceptional players, but they’re already built.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Stover is one of them for Towson (1-1). Making his first start after replacing injured redshirt junior Morgan Mahalak, Stover completed 21 of 36 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Asked to assess Stover’s performance, Ambrose said, “Not bad. Try being a redshirt freshman and going to play a team that’s probably going to be ranked in the Top 25 pretty soon. He did some really, really good stuff today. He did some bonehead stuff today. But he did some really, really good stuff. We’re feeling a little bit better [about quarterback].”
As explosive as Maryland’s offense was for most of the game, especially a running game that accounted for 367 yards and six touchdowns on 36 carries, its defense didn’t play with the same consistency or ferocity that it showed at Texas.
At one point in the second quarter, after Stover and the Tigers went on an 11-play, 81-yard scoring drive, Durkin brought his defensive players together to chew them out. Maryland played better defensively in the second half, limiting Towson to 27 yards rushing, but gave up a 59-yard touchdown pass from Stover to freshman receiver Rodney Dorsey of Frederick.
“I did get on the defense a couple of times,” Durkin said. “There are times when our communication wasn’t where it needs to be and there’s a lack of focus a little. We went up 21-0, we were playing a certain way and then we lost our urgency to do what we need to do. If you don’t have urgency in communication, technique and where your eyes are, you can’t effectively play defense.”
Redshirt senior defensive end Andrew Isaacs, who started at Maryland as a tight end, helped spur the defense in the second half by getting in on two of the team’s four sacks. Isaacs said the message at halftime from Durkin and defensive coordinator Andy Buh was clear.
“Just playing harder,” Isaacs said. “We played hard in the beginning, but we eased up a little bit. The message in the locker room was making sure we kept putting the pressure on them, playing hard and imposing ourselves and that’s what we did.”
Any chance of Towson putting together a comeback and potential upset ended when Maryland junior safety Darnell Savage Jr. — after being called for pass interference two plays earlier — picked off Stover and raced 75 yards for a touchdown to increase his team’s lead to 28-7 late in the first half.
“Especially as a [defensive back], really anyone, anytime you get a chance to make a turnover on defense, I think the first thing that comes to your mind, you want to go score,” Savage said. “Obviously, offense scores touchdowns, that’s what they do. I think a defensive touchdown can swing a lot of momentum in a game.”
Maryland (2-0), which won its first four games in Durkin’s first season before the harsh reality of playing in the Big Ten East led to a 6-7 overall record, will carry a lot of momentum into a rare early bye week. The Terps pick back up against Central Florida at home on Sept. 23 and starting conference play at Minnesota the following week.
Above all, it will give Hill a chance to settle in as the team’s starting quarterback.
Not that he isn’t there already.
Asked if he said anything to Hill before Saturday’s game, Savage said, “Kasim’s a guy you really don’t have to say anything to him. He’s very mature. You can tell he’s always about his business. He’s a guy you don’t have to [say], ‘Are you ready?’ I don’t think he likes people to ask him is he ready. He definitely does a good job making sure he’s prepared."
NOTES: After saying earlier in the week that the kicking job was still up for grabs after senior Adam Greene (Broadneck) struggled against Texas, Georgetown graduate transfer Henry Darmstadter took over and made all nine extra-point attempts, banking the last one off the goal post. He did not attempt a field goal. In the opener, Greene had a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown, and also missed badly on a 50-yard attempt. … Maryland’s scored its most points since a 74-13 win over Missouri to close the 1954 season. The school record is 80 points, in an 80-0 win in 1927. … Junior tight end Avery Edwards was ejected after two unsportsmanlike penalties. Both came after a Towson player was also charged with the same penalty.