Don Markus reports on the Terps' football season-opening upset against No. 23 Texas, 51-41. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)
At his weekly news conference Wednesday, Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell made it clear that a two-quarterback system would not be in play in the team's 2017 season opener at No. 23 Texas.
It seemed the only thing that would lead to the insertion of freshman Kasim Hill, listed as No. 2 on the depth chart, was an injury to sophomore starter Tyrrell Pigrome.
Unfortunately, the what-if question will likely be replaced by what-now as the Terps get ready to play Towson in their home opener Saturday at Maryland Stadium after a 51-41 upset here at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Stadium.
A breakthrough performance that began with Pigrome throwing a pick-six ended with him being helped off on the final play of third quarter. In between he completed eight of his next 11 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 11 times for 64 yards and a touchdown.
With Maryland leading 37-34 and looking as if what had once been a 27-7 lead in the first half was about to be completely erased, Hill's play-making and composure helped the Terps build the lead back to 10 points.
Hill finished his college debut by completing all three of his passes for 44 yards — including a 40-yarder to junior wide receiver D.J. Moore on a third-and-19 from the Texas 47 that set up Hill's 3-yard touchdown run to basically put the game away.
While second-year Terps coach DJ Durkin did not comment on the extent of Pigrome's injury, his return depends on the outcome of a physical examination and an MRI this week. The same evaluation will be done with senior linebacker Jesse Aniebonam, who left earlier in the game with an apparent knee injury.
There's a strong possibility Maryland will be Hill's team sooner than expected. Durkin and the Terps appear comfortable handing the former four-star prospect the reins.
Asked whether Hill was ready to play, Durkin said: "Yeah, there wasn't an ounce of doubt. I mean, that's how he's been since the day he got here. It's just him. He's got that way about him; he's got that 'it' factor about him, for sure."
Said junior running back Ty Johnson, who rushed for 132 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown: "He was really great at practice and detailed. He knew exactly what to do when he went into the game. He knew the situations on the field and executed."
Hill's late-game heroics brought back memories of what Pigrome did coming in at Central Florida last season when senior starter Perry Hills was injured on the first play of double overtime. In that game, Pigrome raced 24 yards for the go-ahead, and eventually, winning touchdown.
"Just a little flashback, what happened with the freshman quarterbacks," said Moore, who caught seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown. "That was kind of good to see."
Junior offensive tackle Derwin Gray said he had a brief talk with Hill when he came onto the field to replace Pigrome.
"I just told him straight up, man, 'We will protect you. You go and stand back there and do your thing and do what you came here to do,' " Gray recalled after the game.
After his initial series started with Maryland facing a second-and-17 from the Texas 37 and ended with junior kicker Adam Greene [Broadneck] missing what would have been a career-long 50 yard field goal, Hill's second series was his coming-out party.
On second-and-6 from the Texas 48, he squeezed through the defense for a 10-yard run and then picked up an additional 7 yards on first down. After an illegal shift penalty and a delay of game on Hill brought the ball back to the 47, he faced third-and-19.
Then came the pass to Moore and the 3-yard touchdown run, one of his five carries for 18 yards. He was also sacked once, for a 4-yard loss, the only time the Longhorns got to a Maryland quarterback Saturday.
"I take my hat off to him," Gray said. "He stayed poised. He showed he was confident back there, he trusted us up front."
Gray doesn't seem concerned about who will play quarterback against Towson on Saturday, and possibly longer.
"It doesn't matter who steps in there. Whatever quarterback steps in there, ain't nothing going to change," Gray said. "We're going to continue to move the line of scrimmage. We'll continue to protect and whatever happens, happens from there."