Maryland Dominates Auburn, Wins Third-Straight Bowl Game

For the first time since 2008, the 7-5 Maryland Terrapins participated in their third consecutive bowl game, taking on the 6-6 Auburn Tigers in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee. 

With wins in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in 2021 and the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in 2022, Maryland entered the game with a 7-4 record in bowl games since 2002— a record better than any current Big Ten team. 

The Music City Bowl would extend Maryland’s win streak, sending the Terps back to College Park with a 31-13 victory.

“I’m really proud of this team, proud of the way our seniors led this program,” Maryland head coach Mike Locksley said in his post-game presser. “Three straight bowl wins, back to back

eight-win seasons. It’s not easy to do here.”

Maryland started with the ball on offense with quarterback Billy Edwards Jr. at the helm. In his first drive, Edwards Jr. earned the longest completion of his career— a 61-yard dish off to running back Roman Hemby. On the next snap, Edwards Jr. rushed two yards into Auburn’s endzone to earn his seventh rushing touchdown of the season. 

Locksley announced on Dec. 19 that his starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa had chosen to opt out of the game, leaving redshirt sophomore Edwards Jr. to handle the role. During the regular season, Tagovailoa passed former Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter for most passing yards in the Big Ten. He finished his final game against Rutgers with 11,356 career passing yards.

Holding Auburn scoreless on its first drive, Maryland was in position to make it a two-score game on its second possession after a 17-yard run from Edwards Jr. landed the ball at Auburn’s six-yard line. Three snaps later, Edwards Jr. completed a five-yard reception to freshman Preston Howard in the endzone to make the score 14-0. The pass marked Edwards Jr.’s first passing touchdown of the season and Howard’s first touchdown of his career. 

“Obviously I was very grateful for the opportunity,” Edwards Jr. said post-game. “Going into this game, I just put a lot of pressure on myself, but I just wanted to win for these older guys.”

For its third drive, Maryland sent in redshirt freshman Cameron Edge at quarterback who made quick work of his opportunity. His first pass was a 57-yard deep ball to wide receiver Kaden Prather who was tackled at Auburn’s three-yard line. Edge’s second throw was a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dylan Wade that sent Maryland up 21-0 and marked the most points ever scored by the team in the first quarter of a bowl game. The reception was only Wade’s third of his career but also his second touchdown. 

Auburn almost went three and out again on its third drive but earned its first first down of the game with a fake punt attempt by punter Oscar Chapman who rushed for 10 yards. The drive carried into the second quarter, but Maryland’s stout defense forced a turnover on downs at half-field. A series of rush attempts by Hemby landed the Terps in field goal range, but a sack on Edge for a loss of nine yards forced Maryland to punt for the first time in the game. 

The Tigers earned their first score of the game with just under three minutes left in the half. QB Payton Thorne completed a three-yard pass to TE Braden Frazier who hauled in his second touchdown of the season. 

Edwards Jr. was sent back in over Cameron Edge for the final drive of the half, and WR Jeshaun Jones caught a deflected pass for a gain of 26 yards to land the Terps just shy of field goal territory. Kicker Jack Howes made a 49-yard field goal (a career-long) to send the Terps into the break up 24-7.

The momentum seemingly halted for both teams at the start of the second half with neither able to make anything of their first drives. But on Auburn’s second possession, Thorne threw an interception to defensive back Glendon Miller who gave Maryland its first pick-six of the season. The interception marked Miller’s fourth of the season, making him responsible for a fourth of Maryland’s 16 picks.

“I told myself the day before, just don’t try to do anything extra, just do my job, and the plays will make themselves,” Miller said in his presser. “Then it happened. I just ran for my life.”

Miller’s touchdown was the only score of the third quarter.

Shortly into the fourth quarter, Auburn withdrew Thorne for the remainder of the game and sent in QB Holden Geriner to take his place. Thorne finished the game with 84 yards and a completion percentage of 48% (second lowest this season), completing 13 of his 27 pass attempts.

But Geriner wouldn’t last long. With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, freshman quarterback and Nashville native Hank Brown was sent in to finish the game out. Brown’s second pass was a 53-yard completion to WR Caleb Burton who was tackled at Maryland’s one-yard line. RB Jeremiah Cobb rushed up the middle on the next snap for a touchdown, but the two-point conversion attempt that followed was no good. 

Despite making it to Maryland’s 15-yard line on the next drive, Auburn failed to find the end zone and turned the ball over on downs with just under three minutes left. After three rush attempts, Billy Edwards Jr. kneeled the ball to end the game and give Maryland its third-straight bowl win.

“These guys up here with me and the seniors in that locker room, they have earned everything that we’ve gotten because nobody gives Maryland nothing,” Locksley said. “But our team embraces that. We like that you don’t give us, that we’ve got to go take it, and that’s the Maryland way. That’s what it’s all about.”