Can State Pressure Hills?

Maryland probably didn't expect to be starting true freshman Perry Hills at quarterback back in the summer, but a season-ending injury to returning starter C.J. Brown opened the door for Hills, who has made the most of the opportunity.

Maryland probably didn't expect to be starting true freshman Perry Hills at quarterback back in the summer, but a season-ending injury to returning starter C.J. Brown opened the door for Hills, who has made the most of the opportunity.

Through six games, he has led the Terps to a 4-2 record, accounting for eight passing touchdowns and six interceptions with another three scores on the ground.

"I evaluated him in high school coming out of Pittsburgh," said NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer. "He's got better. It's a tough situation to be put into where you're not expected to play and all of a sudden you're playing major college football, and he's definitely improved.

"He's managing the game better and not turning the ball over which earlier in the year was a problem... the William & Mary game, the Temple game."

In his last four games Hills has totaled eight scores and just three interceptions, including a 305-yard, three-touchdown performance at West Virginia.

However, Maryland certainly isn't asking their true freshman quarterback to try and win the game for them. He has yet to attempt over 30 passes in a contest, as the Terps are relying on strong defense and special teams play to win games.

Offensively, Archer believes they want to win by rushing the football and playing defense.

"They want to keep their offense on the field," said Archer. "They are very good on defense, and I believe they want to shorten the game. By doing that, he has to manage the game, keep them out of negative plays, and not turn it over. That's what he's done the last two weeks."

A major point of emphasis for the Wolfpack defense will be defending first down. Because of Maryland's offensive gameplan, State must be stout defensively on first down so they can put Hills and the Terp offense into second and long or third and long situations.

Maryland has struggled this year on third down, converting just 32.9% of the time, which ranks No. 102 nationally. State has been outstanding in getting off the field, ranking No. 4 nationally in third down defense (26.2%).

For Archer, that all starts with how you defend first down.

"The key to the game is we've got to be good on first down," he said. "They run the ball on first down. Now, I'm sure they are going to self-scout themselves, but first and 10 they are heavy run... they are going to run it on first down because they know they have a young quarterback. They want to get four or five yards and put him in a plus situation.

"If we can put them in predictable throwing situations on second and third down that plays in our hands because we can try to put pressure them with our blitz packages. If you look at he games we've played well, we've been good on first and third down. To me, those are the most important downs."

Pack Defense Bends... Doesn't Break
A lot of attention has been given to State's defensive performance against Florida State in the second half, but Archer mentioned that he was just as pleased with how well his group did in the first 30 minutes.

"I wasn't displeased with our effort in the first half," he said. "We competed and kept us in the game. They had the one drive... an 80-yarder where they converted two third downs. They only converted 3-of-15 for the game and two were on that drive.

"The other times we were on the field in bad field position and held them to field goals, which is a plus. They were in the red zone four times and got one touchdown. That's a win for us. That may have been the underlying stat of the game in the first half."

Archer will be the first to admit that the Pack's offensive performance in the second half against Florida State certainly helped his group.

"In the second half, the biggest thing was we got off the field and our offense stayed on the field," he stated. "As I've told you guys, I'm a real good coach when I stand on the sidelines and watch our offense. I can't screw things up.

"The fact that our offense had the ball 53 snaps in the 2nd half... what we did [on defense] was go three-and-out, four-and-out. I don't think we had more than a six-play drive in the second half."

Parting Shots
Tom O'Brien is concerned with Maryland's defensive front, a group that has led to the Terps being ranked in the top 20 in nearly all major defensive categories. "It's going to be a tough challenge," said O'Brien. "They are big, strong guys. 72, we had trouble blocking all the time last year. Hartsfield is leading them in tackles. It's a 3-4, but a lot o times it ends up being a 4-3 with the way they play their front.".

  • State didn't start working on Maryland until this Sunday, using the bye week, as they always do, to improve as a team.

    "We worked to get better fundamentally," said O'Brien. "We wanted to make sure some of the things, Xs and Os that we thought we had to get done, depending upon our evaluation, we corrected some things.

    "We wanted to try and make sure that we do some things better this half of the year than we did the first half."

  • NC State lost Forrest West for the season, but appears to be getting healthier with Rob Crisp, James Washington, and Andrew Wallace, three starters at the beginning of the year, listed as probable for the Maryland game.

    It's safe to say the Wolfpack, who had three offensive linemen listed as reserves to start the season start against Florida State, will be lining up a different unit on Saturday.


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