Maryland football was in a record-breaking, milestone-reaching mood on Wednesday at the Pinstripe Bowl.
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa tied the program record for the most touchdowns in a season (26), the Terps accumulated the most points they have ever scored in a bowl game and Maryland barreled its way through Virginia Tech to its first bowl victory since 2010, on a resounding, 54-10, scoreline.
“I can’t even put into words how proud I am of this team,” head coach Michael Locksley said, “We’ve come a long way as a program since 2019. It’s been a lot of hard work hasn’t been easy … But I still believe again that the best is ahead and what today’s shows, as you saw, young players, making plays for us, you saw our quarterback, again, continue to show consistency, our defense stepped up … “
Maryland looked inspired and motivated with every score and determinant play. But the offense took time to ease into the form that the defense had dominated the game with. Once it did, the scoreboard quickly displayed the lopsided nature of the game.
The Terps defense held strong early. And defensive back Tarheeb Still’s opening 92-yard punt return — the Terps’ first special teams score of the season and longest punt return in Maryland history — was the only difference after a quarter of play. After two quarters, the initial seven-point difference ballooned to 14 following a pair of milestone marking touchdowns.
In response to the Hokies’ first points on the board, the Terps used the first play of the subsequent drive to take their first multiple-possession lead. Tagovailoa’s 70-yard connection with Darryl Jones for a, 14-3, advantage was a surge for the offense. The redshirt sophomore’s dime gave Jones his first touchdown of his four-year career and Maryland its longest play from scrimmage for the entire season.
“Man, this is a long time coming,” Tagovailoa said, “When you see Darryl run routes, it just pops out to you … to see him have the day that he had today, I can’t do nothing but be happy for him. ”
Jones ended the game with a game-high 111 yards and two touchdowns, helping Tagovailoa storm to a 265 yard finish that included zero turnovers and just four incompletions. The Terps’ first season long quarterback starter since 2014 finished as the Pinstripe Bowl MVP.
“I hope it‘ll silence some of the critics and maybe he’ll get a little bit of respect I think he deserves,” Locksley said of Tagovailoa’s performance. “We’ve got one of the best quarterbacks in the league, if not, the country.”
Down, 14-3, Virginia Tech failed to score again and sent the ball back to a scorching Maryland offense. Five plays, 60 yards and a bulldozing four-yard touchdown finish by freshman Antwain Littleton was the result — his first career touchdown, putting the Terps up, 21-3.
Shortly thereafter, Virginia Tech scored its first touchdown, celebrated and anticipated a prompt return to the locker room after leaving just a minute left in the half and pinning the Terp offense at their own 14 yard line.
But Tagovailoa and Maryland had a response for that, too. And another 60 yard, surgical drive spearheaded by Tagovailoa, capped off by a 44-yard field goal, sent the Hokies to the halftime break down, 24-10, and the Terps well into blowout territory.
“Right before the half we made the decision, even though we were backed up, to try to steal some points,” Locksley said. “It really paid dividends to walk off the field with the field goal and then to get the second half get the ball.”
With their comfortable lead, the Terps proceeded to dismantle the Hokies as the second half ensued.
Each Maryland drive ended with a score thereafter. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, went scoreless for the entire second half.
Maryland’s defense continued to swarm and command the field, adding to the offensive effort with a Greg Rose scoop and score — Rose’s first career touchdown and Maryland’s first fumble return since 1985 — and allowing just 51 second half yards, while the offense continued to run up the score, getting freshman running backs Roman Hemby and Colby McDonald into the endzone, sprinting towards a record-breaking offensive output.
“[This shows that] if you keep grinding, if you stay true to what you’re trying to do, you can still get a good positive end result,” Still said, “I feel like it is the next step for the program. Taking the next step is something this school hasn’t done long time.”