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Perry Hills, Terps look to avoid turnovers caused by mental mistakes

Perry Hills, Terps look to avoid turnovers caused by mental mistakes
Iowa Defensive back Jordan Lomax, right, forces a fumble while taking down Maryland quarterback Perry Hills (11) in the second half on Oct. 31, 2015 at Kinnick Stadium, in Iowa City, Iowa. (Matthew Holst / Getty Images)

When interim coach Mike Locksley revamped the Maryland offense ahead of the team's matchup at No. 1 Ohio State in early October, he and the coaching staff elevated quarterback Perry Hills to the starting role and made the decision to run the scheme through Hills.

There have been bright spots in the offense despite a five-game losing streak. In scoring 28 points against the Buckeyes and 30 points two weeks later against Penn State, the Terps have posted two of their three highest scoring outputs against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. And against Iowa last week, Hills became the first Maryland player to rush for at least 100 yards in three straight games.

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But turnovers have continued to bite the Terps, with nine in the past two games, seven of which came from Hills. Maryland ranks far behind the rest of the nation in that department.

"You've got to be very patient," Locksley said. "Obviously, it's deflating. It's like raising kids and they keep making the dumb mistakes over and over again. As a parent, you love them through it. You hold them accountable for it. Obviously, if they continue to make them, you have to make a change where it's necessary."

While some of Maryland's turnovers have been physical things — when Hills fumbled inside the Penn State red zone, Nittany Lions cornerback John Reid hit Hills perfectly so that the ball squirted out — but Hills said there have been many more mental mistakes that have led to miscues.

"It just comes down to focusing," Hills said. "If you have 80 plays in a game, you have to give 100 percent focus on each one of those plays and don't skip a step in the process. … You just can't skip any of those, and if you skip one of those, it can turn into a negative, so you just have to be really locked in on each individual play."

There has been an emphasis this whole season on protecting the football. The Terps haven't had a game without a turnover this season and have multiple turnovers in every game except for the opener against Richmond of the Football Championship Subdivision.

"It's mind-boggling, some of the egregious errors we've had in terms of interceptions and fumbles and penalties, and they've been untimely," Locksley said. "Those are what bad teams do. We've got a good team. We just don't play real smart at times."

The Big Ten Conference has five defenses that rank in the top 15 nationally in total defense. Maryland has already faced Michigan, Iowa, Penn State and Ohio State. Wisconsin, which also leads the nation in scoring defense, is up next, while Michigan State, a top-20 team in rushing defense, looms next week. And the Badgers and Spartans will be looking to force the Terps into even more mistakes.

"The fumbles and interceptions need to stop," Hills said. "That's what's killing us right now. We can move the ball up and down on any team, but just the drive-killers like the fumbles and the interceptions, that kills us right now."

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