And when Pigrome reached the huddle, preparing for the most action he’s seen since the Terps’ 2017 season opener against Texas, his teammates boosted his confidence and helped make his return to major action a stellar one.
“You’ve been in this situation before,” Pigrome recalled them saying. “We believe in you.”
Interim head coach Matt Canada called for a pass on his first play, a third-and-7. But when the pocket collapsed, Pigrome felt the pressure, navigated through the traffic and scrambled to the right for a nine-yard gain and a first down.
The improvisation kept the eventual touchdown drive alive, and Pigrome went on to complete 10 of 13 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown before a last-minute fumble put a wrench in the team’s plans of bowl eligibility.
As he nearly led the Terps to a comeback win, the redshirt freshman seemed comfortable in an expanded role under center.
“I was like, ‘It’s time to go,’” Pigrome said. “Just making sure I stayed calm the whole game, did what I had to do to help the team out.”
Throughout the first nine games of the season, Pigrome had replaced Hill for a handful of snaps at a time. He’d hand off the ball a few times — or maybe run it himself — but seldom threw it, attempting 18 passes total.
Still, there were points this season when fans clamored for a quarterback change, especially after Hill led Maryland to three total points and 121 passing yards combined in losses to Iowa and Michigan State.
But the Terps no longer have the luxury of using Pigrome as a change of pace. And if the team is to reach bowl eligibility by beating either No. 9 Ohio State or No. 16 Penn State, Pigrome will need to be nearly perfect.
The Terps need Pigrome to add a threat to the running game while throwing with enough accuracy to stop a defense from stacking the box. He did that against the Hoosiers, but the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions pose much more of a challenge.
“There’s certainly plays that he does better than other plays,” Canada said. “We try to use our players’ strengths. … But we’re still going to run what we do well. We’re going to try to do what we think will give us a chance to score some points against a really, really good football team.”
Canada mentioned “subtle differences” between the play calls when Hill and Pigrome were on the field. The Terps coach has described Hill as a pocket passer, and while he didn’t show much mobility this year, the redshirt freshman also completed 49.4 percent of his passes.
Pigrome’s limited throws haven’t often resulted in much success, but he has been dangerous on the ground. He broke off a 42-yard run and punched in a touchdown against Michigan’s second-string defense, helping narrow the scoreline in Maryland’s 42-21 defeat, and he has had runs of at least 15 yards in four other games.
Against the Hoosiers, Pigrome found a rhythm through the air. He hit wide receiver Jeshaun Jones for a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, and he had 2:32 to put together a game-winning drive before a strip sack with under a minute remaining ended that shot.
“There’s no surprise with what he came in and did,” defensive lineman Adam McLean said. “Pig is a great player, and his approach to football is awesome. He prepares the right way.”
In Maryland’s season opener against Texas in 2017, Pigrome was the starting quarterback, but he suffered an ACL tear late in the third quarter to prematurely end his sophomore season. And while Pigrome limped off the field, Hill grabbed his helmet from the sideline and ran on to finish the job.
On Saturday, it was Pigrome’s turn to enter off the bench as Hill left the field, with a second knee injury beginning a new recovery process — and giving Pigrome another chance at quarterback.
Pigrome’s recovery process is mostly over, although at open practice Tuesday he still wore the right knee brace needed after his ACL tear. But for the first time since his right knee gave out when he tried to make a cut against the Longhorns, the former Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year will start a game.
“He’s hung in there. It’s a great credit to Pig,” Canada said. “Everybody wants to start. He’s started before. Wasn’t the greatest situation but he never complained.”