On an afternoon when the Maryland football team did exactly what everyone thought it was going to do to woeful Rutgers, quarterback Kasim Hill threw three flashy touchdown passes and reminded us all how good he can be.
He also left us to wonder why, for every one of those bursts of brilliance, there was an open receiver leaping in vain to reach what should have been a routine throw-and-catch.
Nobody’s perfect, of course, and Hill is a redshirt freshman who missed almost all of last season. But this is the Big Ten and he’s going to have to get more consistent hitting his targets to put the improved Terps in position for a decent bowl bid.
He was 8-for-17 for 76 yards Saturday, when the low yardage total didn’t much matter. The Terps ran over the Scarlet Knights, rushing 40 times for 290 yards and 7.3 yards per carry. But they will have to be more balanced to have a chance of upsetting Iowa on the road next week or picking off one of the other conference powers that remain on their schedule.
Obviously, Rutgers isn’t one of them. The Terps were favored by 23 points, but the level of the competition was not the problem. Hill showed great poise in the red zone and made some terrific throws into coverage, but also misfired badly on a handful of very convertible plays.
The fact that he isn’t making more of those routine throws with ease is a curious thing, since his accuracy was not an issue during the three games he appeared in before tearing up his knee against Central Florida last September. He completed 18 of 21 passes for 230 yards, two touchdowns and a 209.1 passer rating last season.
For that reason, he returned this season to great expectations and he has led the Terps to a respectable 4-2 start. If his statistics this season are more workmanlike, interim coach Matt Canada cautioned Saturday against heaping too much on the shoulders of a young player who played so little last year.
“He played one [full] game, right?” Canada said. “He played the end of the opener and he played the start of the third game and all of the sudden he’s supposed to go out there and be Joe Montana. That’s not how it works.”
The only full game he played last year was against Towson and he completed 13 of 16 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns. He was 3-for-3 after fellow quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome suffered a knee injury in the opening victory over then-No. 23 Texas, and was 2-for-2 against UCF in the third game of the season before also suffering a season-ending torn ACL.
Hill dismissed a question about the injury last year and whether it could be affecting his ability to throw with greater accuracy, but it might be a fair one. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco needed significant time to get comfortable playing with a knee brace. Hill said that has not been a factor.
“I would not say it’s having any effect on me,” Hill said. “There are things that you go back and watch the film that you can do better, week by week. As a team and myself, we’re just trying to get better week by week against every opponent that we face.”
The Terps clearly have bought into Canada’s team-first approach, the players adopting the same kind of coachspeak to point out the importance of not looking too far ahead or behind. For his part, Canada has tried to keep the pressure off his players during this uniquely challenging season. Especially his two young quarterbacks.
“They get too much blame and too much credit,” Canada said. Hill “has got to play better at times, but he made some plays today, too. Some of those throws he made, I’m not sure everybody else could have made those throws. We believe in him. We believe in Pig. … Both of them are playing well.
“Obviously, we think about all the [plays] that don’t work, but we’ll get better. We’ll continue to make plays. If we’re sitting there next week and we win a game, we’ll be happy. That’s all that matters.”