The Maryland football team went into 2018 figuring it had to replace All-Big Ten wide receiver DJ Moore by committee. The Terps did that Saturday in their 34-29 win over No. 23 Texas at FedEx field, with 10 different players catching quarterback Kasim Hill’s 17 completions.
Freshman Jeshaun Jones caught two of them for 73 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown pass from Hill. But it was what the former three-star recruit and the last player signed for the 2018 recruiting class did when he wasn’t catching passes that was so impressive.
Jones also had a 28-yard touchdown run and a 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Taivon Jacobs, becoming only the fourth true freshman playing in his first game to catch, run and throw for a touchdown since achievements of this type started being kept in 1996.
By doing so, Jones joined a group that includes Antwaan Randle El of Indiana in 1998. He also became first freshman overall to do it since former Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota of Oregon did it as a redshirt freshman in 2012.
“He is versatile,” interim Maryland coach Matt Canada said of the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Jones. “He’s a very good football player. Obviously the jet sweeps are a part of our offense. A lot of guys ran it; his popped.”
As for his flea-flicker pass to Jacobs, Canada said the team has run it in practice using a few players throwing the ball.
“We kind of auditioned it,” Canada said. “We had three or four guys throw it in practice. His was the best and you’re only going to do it one time. He won. That’s how it went. He did a great job. It was really good for him, good for our football team.”
Said Hill: "Obviously Jeshaun had a great game today and I'm very happy to see that. But I think a lot of our young guys are doing a great job learning the playbook, executing and going about their business. I think it’s hard as a young guy coming into college with all the distractions that you can have."
While it’s obvious Hill is Maryland's No. 1 quarterback, Canada used redshirt sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome during three different series as a change of pace.
Under the circumstances, Pigrome did well, completing three of four passes for 22 yards and rushing three times for 12 yards. He nearly completed what would have been a 22-yard touchdown to Avery Edwards that was just out of the tight end’s grasp.
It came a year after Pigrome started against the Longhorns in Austin, where after throwing a pick-six on Maryland’s opening series, he helped the Terps to a big lead before tearing his ACL in the second half and giving way to Hill, who helped preserve a 51-41 victory.
“We’ve got a lot of good players and there’s only one ball,” Canada said. “But the way Kasim — and I’m going to give it to Pig, too — and Max [Bortenschlager] started a lot of football games and now [is] sitting there. Those three kids are sticking together and they’re special.”
Gray sits out
Despite practicing the whole week leading up to Saturday's game, redshirt senior offensive tackle Derwin Gray did not play against the Longhorns after “he didn’t feel right" during pregame warmups, according to Canada.
Canada did not disclose the injury, but Gray has had some knee problems throughout his career.
“He just revved it up and didn't feel like he could go,” Canada said. “So then Marcus [Minor] had to play, which was great. We were prepared for that. Marcus Minor had a tremendous spring and fall and is a very good football player.”
Minor, too, got “nicked up a little bit,” Canada said, “and then he went back into the game.”
Canada said the Terps used a six-player rotation for the offensive line, including junior Ellis McKennie, who even lined up at tight end.
Canada said after Saturday's game that it was the first time he had ever watched his team’s defense and actually paid attention.
“I don’t normally watch the defense at all because it just gets me mad,” Canada said. “Either way. Either way they stop them and we don’t score, so I’m mad. But obviously I felt like I had to. We had a timeout, we needed to.
“But I was still trying to stay out of it. I’m focusing on the offense. I’ve met with the defensive players, they know where I’m at, care about them, they know where we are. That’s the general message of our football team. But I’m focused on the offense and [the defensive coaches] did a great job.”