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College Sports

Hills, Terps look to fix red zone struggles

Maryland quarterback Perry Hills looks for a receiver in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Richmond, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley ticked off the areas where quarterback Perry Hills excelled in last week's victory over Richmond.

Hills had led a successful two-minute drill to score a touchdown before half, the Terps were six of 11 on third-down conversions while Hills was in the game and he led the Maryland offense to 36 points while he was at the helm.

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But with the season's second game against Bowling Green coming up Saturday, there are a few areas where the Maryland coaching staff wants to see improvement from Hills, mainly in the red zone and in getting enough on his throws to hit his receivers.

"We moved the ball up and down the field on them," Hills said. "It's just going to come down to executing in the red zone. Running the ball, throwing the ball, we just have to be efficient."

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Maryland was five of six on chances in the red zone against Richmond, but scored only one red-zone touchdown with Hills, though the Terps also scored on plays of 21 and 23 yards — just outside the red zone.

After the game, coach Randy Edsall said he was considering adding extra red zone work to Maryland's practice schedule this week because of the offense's performance when it got close to the end zone.

"I think some of it is we missed some throws down there and really we didn't execute at a high level," Edsall said. "There's always another team out there playing and it's hard. They want to stop you from getting touchdowns and make you kick field goals. We want to get touchdowns and not kick field goals. I don't think our execution was as good as we needed to be."

Part of the red zone struggles were due to Hills' early problems underthrowing his receivers. On Maryland's first drive, fullback Kenneth Goins Jr. was open in the end zone, but Hills underthrew him and hit a Richmond defender in the helmet.

In the second quarter, Maryland drove to Richmond's 7-yard line, but an illegal block penalty set them back 15 yards. On first down, Hills had wide receiver Levern Jacobs open near the end zone on the left sideline but threw it behind him.

On the next play, Hills threw a ball at running back Wes Brown's feet in the left flat. The Terps got a 30-yard field goal from Brad Craddock out of the drive.

"You just got to trust the guys around you trust that they're going to make the plays," Hills said. " Not overthinking, 'OK where do I place this ball,' things like that. I've been playing this game since I was 5 years old, so it's just going to come down to [reading and reacting]."

Locksley made a basketball analogy when talking about Hills' struggles early on and pointed out that if one of Hills' early misses — he was 3 of 7 with an interception in the first quarter — had been on target, the redshirt junior could have established a rhythm and changed the trajectory of an afternoon that ended up being a solid showing.

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"It's a lot like shooting free throws," Locksley said. "Most of the underthrown balls Perry had were guys that were wide open. You have a tendency to be very careful and aim the ball instead of just throwing it with confidence. It's like anything else. If he hits the first one, things are flowing and now we'll be talking a little differently about him."

When Maryland squares off against Bowling Green on Saturday, every possession will be important. The Falcons run an up-tempo spread offense and rolled up 30 points and 557 yards on Tennessee last week. Despite allowing 59 points to the Volunteers, Bowling Green showed it can put up points in a hurry.

And so Hills and the Terps will have to apply the lessons from their win over Richmond: touchdowns over field goals in the red zone.

"We moved the ball up and down the field on them," Hills said. "It's just going to come down to executing in the red zone. Running the ball, throwing the ball, we just have to be efficient."

daniel.gallen@carrollcountytimes.com

410-857-7895

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twitter.com/danieljtgallen


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