Maryland employs QB shuffle in effort to fix passing game
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Maryland interim coach Matt Canada has used both his quarterbacks in all five games this season, jockeying between Kasim Hill and Tyrrell Pigrome in an effort to get more production from an offense that has relied heavily on the run.
Both quarterbacks run well, yet neither has distinguished himself as the passer the Terrapins (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) desperately need.
Hill, a redshirt freshman, is 47 for 86 for 578 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Pigrome, a sophomore, is 6 for 11 for 40 yards with an interception.
Maryland ranks last in the Big Ten and 123rd in the country with 127.6 yards passing per game. The Terps could muster only 73 yards in the air last weekend during a 42-21 loss to Michigan.
Hill remain the starter this Saturday against Rutgers (1-5, 0-3), but Pigrome will undoubtedly see action.
“We think both those young men are very, very good players and they both create issues for the defense,” Canada said Tuesday. “Whoever’s playing the best in a game is going to play.”
In addition to being Maryland’s offensive coordinator, Canada is serving as interim head coach for DJ Durkin, who is under administrative leave while the school awaits the results of an independent investigation of the culture of the football program.
Canada’s main focus in his role as offensive coordinator is get more balance from a unit that is averaging nearly twice as many yards on the ground as through the air.
“It’s not a panic for us,” Canada insisted. “I have great faith in our wideouts, great faith in our quarterbacks, great faith in our pass protection. We’ve just got to play better at times.”
Hill and Pigrome had their 2017 seasons cut short by torn ACLs within the opening three games. Third-stringer Max Bortenschlager came in and proved to be more adept at passing than carrying the ball in Durkin’s run-option attack.
This year, Hill and Pigrome are working to improve their passing skills and Bortenschlager is done for the year after undergoing ankle surgery.
So, it’s up to Hill and Pigrome to make it work when opposing defenses stack the line against the run. Temple dared the Terps to pass in a 35-14 rout on Sept. 15, and Michigan did the same on Saturday.
“Kasim has developed into a good, good pocket passer. He’s doing well there. We’ve got to continue to give him opportunities in protection, call better plays,” Canada said. “Then Pig comes in there, and obviously he’s dynamic with the football and can still throw it as well.”
Perhaps, but the duo combined for seven completions against Michigan and Hill threw an interception that was returned 46 yards for a touchdown.
It’s not all the fault of the quarterbacks. The Terrapins lost All-Big Ten receiver DJ Moore to the pros and have not found a go-to receiver to replace him. DJ Turner and Taivon Jacobs have 13 catches each, which accounts for nearly half the team’s 54 receptions.
“Our receivers are working hard. I’m excited to see them touch the ball more,” Canada said. “We’ve got to get them more involved in the game.”
Canada seems to be getting tired of defending the passing game at his weekly news conference.
“I understand why everybody’s asking the question,” he said. “There will be a game, I don’t have any doubt in my mind, when we throw for a whole bunch of yards and we don’t run for very many. And that will be awesome because then I’ll come in here any you guys will ask, ‘What happened to the running game and why aren’t you guys running the ball?’”