COLLEGE PARK, MD - - Maryland turned the ball over four times and only managed 236 yards of total offense, but the Terps did enough to win their season opener Saturday afternoon, defeating the William & Mary Tribe 7-6 at Byrd Stadium.
Both teams struggled on offense, but it was Maryland who managed to get into the end zone, thanks to a fourth quarter touchdown from Justus Pickett.
The focus of the game was definitely on the Terps' true freshmen, with mixed results. Perry Hills started to look better as the game went along, but threw three interceptions on 16/24 passing for 145 yards, and Albert Reid ran for 29 yards on twelve carries. Stefon Diggs only had eight touches, but had 83 total yards and looked electric. Pickett ended up with 11 rushes for 45 yards, and got most of the carries down the home stretch.
"I thought that Albert did a good job for being a freshman," coach Randy Edsall said. "At the end of the game I wanted to go with experience so we put Justus back in the game and his experienced paid off."
Maryland received the opening kick-off, and curiously decided to open the game by passing the ball twice with Hills. The second pass was picked off by De-Andre Houston-Carson, and the Tribe's Drake Kuhn slotted home a 30-yard field goal to take an early 3-0 lead.
With around five minutes left in the quarter, Hills threw another interception, to safety Brian Thompson. Thompson returned it to the Terps' nine-yard line and Kuhn hit a 22-yarder to make it 6-0. Edsall spoke of the defense's red zone resilience.
"Offensively we had four turnovers and we put our defense in the hole," he said. "But our defense stood up and only gave up field goals with that field position, which is huge."
Albert Reid fumbled the ball late in the quarter, and the Tribe recovered, giving the Terps three turnovers in the first fifteen minutes Maryland was able to stop the ensuing drive with an interception by Joe Vellano after the ball was knocked loose from Keith McBride's hands by Darin Drakeford.
Maryland was able to put together a drive after getting the ball back, led by 18 yards from Justus Pickett and 45 total yards from Hills, but true freshman kicker Brad Craddock missed a 25-yard field goal to keep it 6-0.
With about ten minutes left in the third, Hills threw his third interception of the game, completely missing Kevin Dorsey on a slant route. Tribe safety Ivan Tagoe was there to get the easy pick. Edsall said he never considered benching the freshman quarterback, and said Hills will learn from the experience.
"I think that he was trying too hard," Edsall said. "He tried to avoid a sack one time and threw it when he shouldn't have. Sometimes a sack might be the best thing and he has to learn that."
"Nate Renfro is a guy who stepped up huge today," Edsall said. "He had a great day punting, and that last punt, you couldn't have asked for anything better than that."