Maryland QB Hills nears conclusion of frustrating season
FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2016, file photo, Maryland quarterback Perry Hills walks on the field in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Purdue, in College Park, Md. Hills hopes his ailing left shoulder will heal enough to allow him to suit up for his final home game Saturday against Rutgers. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) Perry Hills leads the Big Ten in completion percentage and has proven to be invaluable for Maryland as a passer, rusher and senior leader.
All of those positives are wasted on Hills, who can't help lamenting the injuries that prevented him from thoroughly enjoying his final season with the Terrapins.
Hills has missed two games and was knocked out of two others. That's his takeaway from a season in which he has thrown 10 touchdown passes and carried Maryland (5-6, 2-6) to the brink of bowl eligibility.
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''It's been pretty rewarding,'' Hills said Tuesday, ''but the frustration sets in because you keep saying, `What if? What if?'''
Coming off a season in which he threw 13 interceptions compared to eight TD passes, Hills won the starting job over the summer for first-year coach DJ Durkin. The Terrapins got off to a 4-0 start before Hills hurt his right shoulder in the first half at Penn State.
Maryland lost that game, then fell at home to Minnesota with an injured Hills watching from the sideline.
Hills returned to beat Michigan State, but two weeks later was injured at Michigan. He started the following week against Ohio State but left in the first quarter with a left shoulder injury.
''I went in the locker room and said, `Man, God must not want me to play.' I'm already going through one bad shoulder and he's going to go out and try and give me another,'' Hills said. ''It was definitely heart-wrenching. It's like, anything that can go wrong has gone wrong. What on earth?''
Hills could not recover to face Nebraska last week , and his status for Saturday's home game against Rutgers (2-9, 0-8) is uncertain.
''I look for Perry to continue to improve this week, get him back healthy and hopefully go out there and help our senior class go get a win,'' Durkin said.
All five of Maryland's victories this season have come with Hills in the starting lineup, which says as much about his effectiveness as his 66.7 percent completion percentage.
As goes Hills, so go the Terps. Three other quarterbacks have stepped in during his absence, combining for three TD passes, five interceptions and nary a victory.
If Hills had stayed healthy, who knows? Maryland probably would have already sewn up a bowl berth and Hills could look back on his final college season with no remorse.
''He's certainly fought through a lot of things,'' Durkin said. ''You wish he was healthier throughout the whole year. His year would be way more reflective of the type of player and young man he is. In many ways our team and our season would have reflected that, too.''
Funny thing is, with the exception of a torn ACL as a freshman, Hills has been impervious to injury at Maryland – until this year.
''It's definitely been frustrating,'' he said. ''Last year I took a lot more hits and didn't really get injured.''
On a day Maryland bids farewell to its seniors and seeks to earn a bowl berth, his teammates want Hills in the huddle.
''I came in with Perry and I've seen him grow so much over the past five years,'' offensive lineman Michael Dunn said. ''He's been through a lot over that time. To have the opportunity to finish his career off with a win over Rutgers and go to a bowl game, that would be a special moment.''
Hills heads toward the weekend uncertain exactly when his career will end – or if he's already taken his last snap in a game situation.
''Nothing's given,'' he said. ''So you just have to go out and enjoy every second that you get in practice and workouts. Even though it can be really hard sometimes, I'm going to really miss it.''
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