Big Ten

Big Ten preview: Can Terps fix woeful quarterback play from a year ago?

Big Ten preview: Can Terps fix woeful quarterback play from a year ago?

Last season, Maryland quarterbacks threw more interceptions than any other team in college football. Twenty nine interceptions is an awful lot, six more than the next most-intercepted team.

So that’s the big to-do for the Terps this season: improving the passing game by making sure fewer passes land in the hands of opposing defenders and more land in the hands of Maryland receivers.

How easy that will be remains to be determined.

The same two guys who combined to throw 28 of those 19 picks are the two favorites for the starting job this season, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe. And while it was quite obvious that neither was very adept at keeping turnover numbers low, indecision couldn’t have helped. Randy Edsall — and then Mike Lockley after Edsall was fired midway through the campaign — couldn’t settle on a starter or a true No. 1, mostly because both guys kept throwing interceptions.

Hills started eight games, playing in nine, while Rowe started four and played in 10. Hills had more statistical success and showed more big-play ability at times, but he threw 13 interceptions compared to eight touchdowns, accumulating 1,001 passing yards with a 50-percent completion percentage. Rowe, meanwhile, threw 15 interceptions and just six touchdowns, passing for 894 yards with a 46.1-percent completion percentage.

Neither option can look terribly exciting to first-year head coach DJ Durkin, who is more a defensive guy anyway. Leading one of the best defenses in the country last year as the defensive coordinator at Michigan, Durkin oversaw a shutout in which the Wolverines held the Terps to a jaw-dropping 105 total yards of offense and intercepted Rowe three times.

All in all, Maryland had one of the worst passing games in the country, averaging just 174.3 yards through the air each week. And while the rushing attack was surprisingly productive, 1,000-yard rusher Brandon Ross isn’t around anymore, putting more pressure on this crop of shaky quarterbacks.

Tasked with solving this riddle is Walt Bell, Durkin’s new offensive coordinator who came over from Arkansas State. Averaging 40 points a game last season, the Red Wolves were the 12th highest-scoring team in the country.

And there are three other quarterbacks on the roster — Tyrell Pigrome, Gage Shaffer and Max Bortenschlager — and Durkin said those guys will all get a chance to compete for the job, too. But not a one of them has any experience, all three freshmen and two of them true freshmen. Still, perhaps a new look would be a positive for a team that experienced a quarterback nightmare last season.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.