Maryland interim coach Matt Canada talks about quarterback Kasim Hill during his Tuesday news conference.(Don Markus, Baltimore Sun video)
In the first two games of his college career last season, Maryland quarterback Kasim Hill showed his versatility, first in coming off the bench to help build the team’s slim lead at Texas and then crushing Towson a week later in the home opener in his first start as a Terp.
Since returning from a season-ending torn ACL he suffered in the team’s third game a year ago against Central Florida, Hill has been more of a game manager than blossoming star, allowing many of his teammates to make big plays than trying to do it himself.
It was never more apparent than in Maryland’s 45-14 win Saturday night at Bowling Green.
After Hill and the offense sputtered in the first half — the Terps trailed 14-10 at halftime in large part because of penalties — the redshirt freshman followed interim coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s game plan perfectly in the second half.
“The offensive line played great the whole game, then the running backs were firing the holes and making big plays,” Hill said after practice Tuesday. “Yeah, we were shooting ourselves in the foot a little bit. We had to clean that up.”
The result was five straight scoring drives, with Hill mostly handing the ball off. Even on the two passes he completed — particularly the 22-yard touchdown by senior wide receiver Jahrvis Davenport — Hill basically dumped the ball off.
“Our kids are worried about winning football games,” Canada said earlier in the day at his new conference. “They believe in that; we just want to win. All we wanted to do was to leave Bowling Green with a win. Kasim was part of that.
“Obviously we weren’t throwing the ball all around the yard in the second half; he was handing it off, he was managing the game, managing the clock, managing the weather, and that’s what that game called for.”
Asked how big Davenport’s catch, spin and run for a touchdown on a third-and-goal from the Bowling Green 22-yard line was, Hill’s eyes lit up. It gave the Terps their first lead of the game, 17-14.
“That was crazy. That was definitely a big boost in the game, especially with a couple of the penalties we had down there,” Hill said. “That was definitely a great play by him, great protection up front. Everybody did their job and you saw what happened out of it.”
What happens in this week’s home opener Saturday against Temple might have more to do with Mother Nature than Canada’s game plan or Hill’s ability to throw and run.
Still, Canada expects Hill to be used this season the same way he played in high school at Gilman for three years and at St. John’s for his senior year.
“There’ll be a game at some point this year where it’s probably called for him to throw the ball quite a bit more or be in a different situation,” Canada said. “I think he’s growing as a quarterback. Again, he’s very talented, but he hasn’t played a lot of football. I’m proud of where he’s at, I thought he did a good job.”
Hill doesn’t seem particularly stressed that he has yet to put up huge numbers. After completing 17 of 29 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns in Maryland’s 34-29 win over then-No. 23 Texas — including a 65-yard touchdown to freshman wide receiver Jeshaun Jones — Hill was just eight of 16 for 121 yards against Bowling Green.
With a running game that produced 444 yards on 53 carries and would have had well over 500 without the penalties, Hill knows that he is just one important piece in an offense that goes five-deep at running back and has had several receivers make big plays as well.
“You have to pick how you want to try to stop us,” Hill said. “We have a lot of different things that we can do, we have a lot of great players. It all starts up front. They block everybody. I think it’s been a lot of fun just being a part of it.”
Despite his relative inexperience on the college level, Hill carries himself with the poise of a more seasoned player. When he had his helmet knocked off after a late and potentially dangerous hit early in the Texas game, he barely flinched.
“Ever since I was younger, my parents taught me about composure,” Hill said. “I try to stay calm in everything, no matter the situation, because then you can really understand the situation and try and address it.”
Asked if he was frustrated during the first half against Bowling Green, Hill said, “I wouldn’t say I was frustrated. I think we were definitely shooting ourselves in the foot with the penalties and things of that nature. But just trusting the plan. Coach Canada gave us a great game plan … just stick to it.”
What resonated with Canada throughout the second half was how much Hill, and others not as involved, enjoyed the results.
“He didn't come out and ask what about this and what about this,” Canada said. “He just said ‘Great, we scored.’ You watch those guys run in and score, Kasim is down there celebrating. The wideouts are celebrating. … I think it is a credit to our whole football team and Kasim certainly is one of the leaders of this team."