Several more questions remain as Maryland football closes non-conference slate against Kent State

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

At least one question was addressed last week at Champaign. 

The Friday night lights were bright, Maryland’s unblemished record was on the line, several mishaps could have easily derailed the Terps’ chances at winning and head coach Mike Locksley had a question about his team that needed an answer. 

Can this year’s team overcome adversity? 

After a Week Three contest that was laden with errors but ended with a clutch two-minute touchdown drive led by Taulia Tagovailoa, a subsequent defensive stand that resulted in 18 negative yards for the Illini and a game winning field goal by Joseph Petrino, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

“This was one of the first games where I thought we had a chance to possibly fold under adversity,” Locksley said. “I was really pleased with the way the team responded.”

Early in the season, any questions regarding the team’s ability under pressure are always good to have answers to — especially when the answers are encouraging. The question of adversity was one of many that Locksley posited heading into the season, and after just three weeks of play, there are still plenty more to be answered — namely, the ones regarding discipline.

“I feel like we’ve played with better discipline but we’re still not where we need to be,” Locksley said.

Indeed, discipline was a trait that wasn’t always present in last week’s matchup. From the Lavonte Gater targeting ejection to the eight penalties that amounted to over 60 yards, the mistakes piled up and were enough to make an impact. 

Against Kent State, a disciplined team in its own right, some corrections for Maryland could be the difference between a needless nailbiter and a tune-up victory. The Golden Flashes aren’t as lowly as their 1-2 record would suggest. Despite being outscored by No. 5 Iowa and No. 7 Texas A&M, 17-71, Kent State’s efforts in the opening quarters of both games were enough to give both top-10 teams trouble scoring. 

“Kent State has a very aggressive defense,” Tagovailoa said. “They’re very tough. I think they’re a much older group, they play together a lot …  Everyone flies to the ball, they’re very aggressive, they’re pretty fast too.”

In both games, the Golden Flashes kept things close before their ranked opponents ran up the score. They held the Aggies to just 10 points in a half and zero in the second quarter before they sprinted to 60 points and, most recently, they faced just a single-possession deficit against Iowa until the floodgates opened in the final seconds of the third frame.  

Much of their success can be attributed to a swarming defense that has nine takeaways on the season and a defensive front brimming with upperclassmen talent along with a dual-threat quarterback to boot. 

“On offense, their quarterback is the guy that makes [Kent State] go,” Locksley said. “[Dustin] Crum is a savvy veteran quarterback that knows that system really really well.”

Maryland, an unranked side, doesn’t have the luxury to have a delayed start to Saturday’s contest — especially against a team as experienced and battle tested as Kent State. 

Ultimately, it’s a game that begs a major question that Locksley had before the season began and will likely continue to stress as the season trudges on: 

Can this team be disciplined?

Maryland and Kent State will be kicking off at 3:30 on Saturday and the contest will air on Big Ten Network.

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