Morgan Mahalak (No. 6) and Ryan Stover (No. 16) look on as Towson prepares for Maryland. Photo by Jordan Cope.
By Jordan Cope, Aaron Lighter and Chris Katz
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
What was setting up to be a showdown of relatively unexperienced quarterbacks is now a battle between two extremely green signal-callers.
When Maryland (1-0) hosts Towson (1-0) on Saturday (noon, BTN), both teams will be led by quarterbacks making their first career start. The Terrapins will rely on true freshman Kasim Hill, who spelled Tyrrell Pigrome during Maryland’s 51-41 win last week at Texas. Under center for the Tigers will be Ryan Stover, a redshirt freshman who replaced starter Morgan Mahalak at times in Towson’s 10-o week 1 win over Morgan State.
Both teams’ week 1 starters are sidelined — Pigrome with a season-ending ACL tear and Mahalak with what Towson described as an “upper-body injury.”
That means the instrastate rivalry will feature two quarterback who have each thrown for 44 yards in their career. Hill was 3/3 and Stover 5/12 last week.
Above: Stover watches drills during Maryland prep week. Below: Mahalak speaks to the news media. Photos by Jordan Cope.
Hill quickly won over fans for his performance in Austin, rushing for a touchdown and showing poise in a hostile environment.
“There wasn’t an ounce of doubt in my mind,” Maryland coach D.J. Durkin said when asked if Hill was ready for the moment. “That’s how he’s been since the day he got here.”
The Terrapins knew their four-star recruit out of Washington D.C. had some serious talent since he was the top quarterback recruit in the region, but few foresaw him touching the field in his collegiate debut.
Maryland coaches have shown confidence in Hill as he makes his first start.
“Kasim prepares the same everyday,” Durkin said. “All last week he prepared like he was the starter and you could see when he went into the game there was no drop-off.”
Hill proved that he could be a threat in the passing game by converting a 40-yard pass to wide receiver D.J. Moore on a very long third down play. “That [play] tells you something about him,” Durkin said.
Hill’s ability in the running game is just as, if not more, important. Pigrome had 11 carries — one fewer than starting running back Ty Johnson — before going down late in the third quarter. Hill’s ability on the ground — that he proved last week with a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter — will make for a much smoother transition between quarterbacks.
On Towson’s sidelines, there’s also confidence in Stover.
“I liked what he did [against Morgan State],” coach Rob Ambrose said. “He showed a little chutzpah out there, and it makes me feel better about where we are…Last year if I ever put the other guy in some guys went out to get a drink, some guys held their breath, some guys waited for us to throw an interception for a touchdown. That clearly didn’t happen tonight. We are building that position just like we are building the rest of the team.”
Mahalak was 8-for-19 for 41 yards in the opener. Watching Mahalak throw three interceptions in Towson’s victory against Morgan State was painful for Ambrose — and Tigers fans.
“There’s no substitute for experience, and [Mahalak’s] lack of it showed on Saturday and he needs more of it,” Ambrose said.
However, since transferring to Towson from Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon in 2016, the 6-foot-3 redshirt junior had been a model of consistency under center for a team that has been desperately seeking to revive its short-lived glory days.
“I think anytime that you’ve practiced at that level, there’s a speed that goes along with it, with everybody on the field,” Ambrose said. “That allows you to see the game a little easier.”
At Oregon, Mahalak was poised to take the vacancy at the position after Marcus Mariota was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2015. That was until Vernon Adams Jr. transferred from Eastern Washington, leaving the dual-threat quarterback as the heir apparent.
With the addition of Adams Jr., Mahalak never took a snap as an Oregon Duck after being redshirted in 2014, and serving on the scout team in 2015.
On Saturday, he’ll have to watch from the sidelines along with Pigrome as the first-time starters make their opening statements.