Maryland football looks to play to a standard against Howard and everyone else in 2021

(Courstesy of Maryland Athletics.)

It might be easy to remember what happened the last time Maryland and Howard met. Easy to remember Mike Locksley’s first win as head coach. Easy to reminisce about the Terps 79-0 drubbing of the Bison in 2019. 

For Maryland, it’s also easy to write Howard off as an easy tune-up opponent. But Locksley has a mindset perfectly suited to combat complacency.

“The goal for us is to not play the team, but to play to the standard,” Locksley said. “That’s been our talk with our team throughout the course of the summer. We set standards [in practice]. And we play the standards we don’t play the opponent.”

Ideally, the standard never changes — or, at least, not as frequently as the opponent. Against Howard, playing to a standard could mean a 2-0 start, or more importantly, improvements to aspects of the Terps’ game that weren’t where they should have been throughout Week One’s contest.

Howard fields a team that isn’t nearly as impressive or threatening as West Virginia. And given its size and struggles from Week One, the Bison will likely have a hard time keeping up with the Terps from kickoff. On offense, their lifeline and perhaps their most talented athlete is quarterback Quinton Williams, who was likely the only promising development of Howard’s Week One loss to Richmond. 

Williams, at a lanky 6-foot-4, was a solid pocket presence in the first four quarters of his 2021 campaign, pacing the Bison offense with 226 passing yards and a touchdown along with connections with nine different receivers. 

He’s complemented by a much smaller, quicker, Jarett Hunter, who’s services at running back led both Richmond and Howard in rushing. Outside of those two and maybe a 6-foot-7, 240 pound giant at tight end, Maryland has little to fear from Howard.  

In a game like this, the Terps are their own worst enemy. 

“You can’t play down to anyone,” cornerback Tarheeb Still said. “We know how good we can be so [we have to] keep that going week in and week out and stay disciplined.”

If it can play to the standard it forged in the offseason, Maryland will have a chance to detangle some kinks and set a precedent for the weeks to come. Acclimating a dependable set of offensive lineman and securing a reliable replacement for recently injured Fa’Najae Gotay, who’s expected to miss significant time after sustaining a major injury against West Virginia, seem to be the biggest concerns in the immediate future. But more could arise as Maryland faces a new team under the stadium lights Saturday night. 

As the Terps gear up to attempt to post their first 2-0 start since 2019, it will be easy to drift off and fixate on what happened in their previous meeting or the success of their season opener last week. Fortunately, there’s a standard to uphold and an ample opportunity to live up to it in a contest right around the corner. 

“I think what we’ve sold our players on and really believe in as a program is that we play to a standard, and we set the standard,” Locksley said. “I think we showed last week what we’re capable of doing in a small part, but there’s still a lot of room to grow. And now the goal is; can we do it? Can we sustain it with consistency and approach every game the same way? That way you don’t get caught up in big games or little games.”

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