Hill was coming off one of several subpar performances in what had been an up-and-down season for the redshirt freshman sophomore, as well as for the Terps.
“I was telling him … ‘Obviously you the guy, so you just ball,” Pigrome said after practice Tuesday. “We just back each other up.”
Last Saturday, Hill bawled. And Pigrome is no longer the backup.
Tackled by Hoosiers linebacker Cam Jones in the second quarter at Indiana’s Memorial Stadium, Hill fell backwards awkwardly as his left knee buckled.
“He was in tears when he came out,” said someone who was on the Maryland sideline.
It wasn’t only from the physical pain associated with tearing the ACL in his left knee, but also the mental anguish from suffering the same injury to different knees in two straight seasons.
Now, a year after Pigrome tore his ACL in the season-opening win at Texas — only to be followed two weeks later by Hill — the redshirt sophomore is ready to take over as the starter.
Pigrome, who led the Terps back from deficits of 21-6 and 31-15 at Indiana to briefly give his team the lead with 4:54 left, will start Saturday against No. 10 Ohio State at Maryland Stadium.
Asked if felt different going into the second half last week knowing that, for the first time in his career, he was the team’s clear No. 1 quarterback, Pigrome made an interesting admission.
“It did feel kind of weird,” Pigrome said. “I just stayed to myself a little bit and made sure I was calm for the team and just keep on doing what I was doing to help us out.”
A reporter wanted to know what he told the team after entering the huddle for the injured Hill.
“I didn’t tell them nothing. They told me stuff. ‘You’ve been in these situations before, we believe in you, we know you [can] run the offense,’ ” Pigrome recalled.
“When they said that, I felt they believed in me and I believe in y’all, and I totally ran the huddle. And we just kept the game moving.”
Pigrome, who rushed for 9 yards and a first down on his first snap, did just that. He finished the game 10-for-13 passing for 146 yards and a touchdown.
Though a comeback win that would have made Maryland (5-5, 3-4) bowl eligible fell short when the Hoosiers made a 42-yard field goal with 2:32 left, Pigrome’s performance was impressive.
Pigrome said that his first play from scrimmage helped boost his own confidence.
“If I had come in the game and we got three-and-out after that play and Kasim’s [injury], I would have been at the same level,” Pigrome said.
“I think that first play when I got in the game did boost me up a little. It was like, ‘It’s time to go.’ We just kept on going and had a nice long drive.”
Unlike Hill, who again struggled with his decision-making and accuracy before getting hurt in finishing the game 4-for-12 for 43 yards and an interception, Pigrome was crisp with his execution and timing.
Except for slight communication on the handoff to sophomore running back Tayon Fleet-Davis on a 2-point conversion after Jeshaun Jones’ 15-yard touchdown catch-and-run had given the Terps a 1-point lead with 4:54 left, Pigrome was on point and on target.
“I think Pig came in and played very, very well,” Maryland interim coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada said Tuesday. “Obviously there’s a couple of plays we wish had gone a different way, but as far as coming in and leading us back down, and taking the lead, he played very well. He’s excited to play this week.”
One of those plays that Pigrome would love to have back was a fumble on Maryland’s last possession of the game.
After Pigrome helped get the Terps from their own 17 to midfield, including the last 29 yards on a pass to freshman wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr., 320-pound defensive tackle DaVondre Love appeared to grab Pigrome’s facemask, pulling him down and causing a fumble.
Though Canada appealed to the Big Ten about a play that might have caused the Terps a realistic chance of getting bowl-eligible, neither he nor Pigrome made any excuses.
“At the end of the day, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t feel the facemask. I just thought the fumble was on me,” Pigrome said. “I’ve got to protect the ball better, just put the team in the best position to win the game.”
Known mostly as a running quarterback — Saturday was one of the rare games in which he had a lot more yards passing than rushing — Pigrome expects to “have free reign” to throw the ball against the Buckeyes.
In his first career start as a freshman against Minnesota, Pigrome played for an injured Perry Hills and completed 18 of 37 passes 161 yards and touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions, including a pick-six. Pigrome rushed for 71 yards on 25 carries in that game.
Two weeks later, he subbed for Hills against Ohio State and completed 7 of 11 passes for 44 yards.
Before getting hurt against Texas last year, Pigrome overcame a pick-six on Maryland's first possession to complete nine of 12 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 11 times for 64 yards and a touchdown. Last week’s performance was the closest he has come to replicating that, especially with his passing.
Asked if he has been that confident as a passer since then, Pigrome said, “I feel like I have. This offense, we have schemes with what Kasim can do and what I can do. What I was doing at the beginning of the season, that was helping the team by running.”
Junior defensive tackle Adam McLean knows what it’s like to chase around Pigrome, having done it the past three summers in practice.
“i think Pig’s IQ as a quarterback is very [high]. What he does with the ball, him throwing the ball pretty well, it definitely opens up his ability to run,” McLean said. “He’s a dual-threat, that’s what he is. He can hit you with the run. He can hit you with the pass. You’ve got to be on your P's and Q’s as a defense to be able to stop a guy like that.”
McLean said he wasn’t shocked to see what Pigrome did against Indiana.
“No surprise there,” McLean said. “Pig is a great player and his approach to football is awesome. He prepares the right way, he does the things a quarterback needs to do to give us the best chance to win on Saturdays. Everyone on the team loves that.”
Said fifth-year offensive tackle Damian Prince: “I feel we have all the faith in the world in Pig. In 2017, he led us to that big game in Austin that nobody thought that we could win. He did some spectacular things. … Everyone’s excited for him to get the opportunity for him to show what he can do.”
Canada doesn’t think Pigrome took the Hoosiers by surprise, or that Ohio State would not be prepared for both his running and passing.
“Obviously we’ve played him enough and I don’t think there’s a great surprise this late in the season what he’s done and what he does well,” Canada said.