Maryland football improves to 4-0 in spite of more blunders

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Just like last week, the mistakes by the Terps were not stopping them from adding another victory to the win column. 

That was the impression when Taulia Tagovailoa orchestrated a masterful three play touchdown drive in response to his first turnover of the season. The scorer of the drive was a streaking Dontay Demus Jr, whose first drop stalled the Terps’ opening drive of the contest. 

Indeed, Tagovailoa’s first interception of the season was not stopping him from having an otherwise flawless game and numerous penalties incurred by the Maryland defense were not stopping them from keeping Kent State below 10 points for nearly all four quarters. 

Better discipline would have certainly helped Maryland throughout its meeting with Kent State, but it all proved to be inconsequential as the Terps marched to their first 4-0 start since 2016 on a 37-16 scoreline. 

“I respect winning enough that obviously I’m visibly disappointed that we haven’t played to the standard,” head coach Mike Locksley said, “but I definitely give our team credit that we’re sitting here 4-0.”

Things seemingly began to go awry when, in the first play of the second drive of the game, Tagovailoa threw behind a striding Rakim Jarrett, who couldn’t corral the awkwardly placed pass. Instead of bobbling to the turf, the misplaced ball was tipped up into the possession of the opposing team, ending Tagovailoa’s streak of games without an interception. It set up a short field for the Golden Flashes, who used it to score their first three points of the game. 

But the Terps offense proved resilient, as they have before, and retaliated with a particularly uneven response. 

In the following three offensive possessions, Maryland scored three straight touchdowns — all while disallowing any more than a field goal for the Kent State offense in the opening half. 

“One of our goals is to keep opponents from scoring a touchdown in the redzone give them three points and we did that,” defensive lineman Sam Okuayinonu, “we did that for the most part but it’s always room for improvement.”

The first score was an efficient three play drive that ended with a 33-yard touchdown connection with Tagovailoa to Demus. The second took 10 plays, but the results were nearly the same as the drive that came before it; another passing touchdown for Tagovailoa and Jarrett’s first receiving touchdown of the afternoon.

Tagovailoa ended with 384 yards and three touchdown passes, his fourth 300 yard game of the season.  

“I thought our quarterback really showed command,” Locksley said, “he’s been incredibly efficient at running at what we wanna run on offense and I think he’ll continue to get better.”

The third and final touchdown of the half, that ultimately set Maryland up for a cozy 24-9 lead at halftime, came at the end of another quick three-play drive in which Demus added a 64-yard pass catch that put him over 100 receiving yards and the Terps in easy scoring territory. This time, the scorer was Tayon Fleet-Davis who rushed for the first of two touchdowns. 

Demus’ catch gave him his seventh career 100-yard game, putting him in the company of NFL pro-bowlers Vernon Davis and Torrey Smith, who also had seven career 100-yard performances while at Maryland. All three are tied for the second most in program history.

The Terps added a field goal with their last possession after striking the life out of the opposition in three strong drives. 

It was a lead forged in spite of a turnover that set the Golden Flashes with promising field position, several pass interference and roughing the passer calls that kept three different drives alive and back-to-back late hits in the waning seconds of the first half that, if time hadn’t expired, would have set Kent State up for its fourth field goal of the game.

The 24-9 scoreline ballooned to 37-9 in just the third quarter and, while several more penalties and mistakes — from a missed extra point from kicker Joseph Petrino to a fumble by receiver Brian Cobbs — granted some life for the Golden Flashes, Maryland’s work in the initial half was insurmountable.

The errors added up, but in this contest, like the one before it, the clock hit zero with the Terps on top. The question of discipline will go unanswered for one more week as the Terps set to face their first ranked opponent.

“At some point, we gotta get this [discipline] thing fixed,” Locksley said “It’s been an achilles heel and an issue. I keep talking about it every week so we’ll continue to coach them through it.”