In a season full of highs and lows, the Terps capped the regular season on a high note – their first shutout of a conference opponent since 2008.
Maryland overpowered Rutgers from all positions, resulting in a 37-0 victory.
“[I’m] proud of this team,” coach Mike Locksley said. “Really proud of the way they finished. Every part of our program is designed to finish the right way, and I thought we did that today.”
The game eventually ended up as a one-sided affair, but for the first quarter, the score stayed even.
After a Scarlet Knight opening drive three-and-out, the Terps wasted no time marching down the field with impressive gains through running back Roman Hemby and a play-action pass to Jeshaun Jones. But, the promising drive ended early when tight end CJ Dippre fumbled from just outside the 20-yard line.
Rutgers got the ball back but could not advance. The visitors finished the half with only two first downs.
The Terps soon found more success. They advanced 28 yards in their first two plays – then running back Antwain Littleton fumbled. Two promising Maryland drives in the first quarter ended through turnovers. Despite producing nearly 100 more yards than their opponent, the game was still scoreless after three drives each.
“Offensively, we were efficient, but we weren’t perfect,” Locksley said.
Maryland finally got on board at the start of the second quarter, as the team concluded a 51-yard drive with a one-yard Hemby rushing touchdown up the middle. Later in the quarter, Hemby scored another touchdown the exact same way.
Nearing a minute left in the second half, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa attempted to scramble through a lane in the right side, but the hole he found closed quickly. He took a hit to his right knee and was slow to get up.
With backup quarterback Billy Edwards also sidelined, the Terps relied on third-stringer Eric Najarian to finish the drive. In his first pass, he threaded the needle to wide receiver Tai Felton on the right side. Several other balls were thrown into the danger zone and nearly picked off, but Maryland dodged a bullet each time. The Terps scored three more points to bring the lead to 17-0 at the half.
Despite hobbling off the field, Tagovailoa was back on the field to start the second half.
“We’re playing this game for the seniors and trying to [send] them out the right way,” Tagovailoa said. “The things that they did throughout the years that they’ve been here, sacrificing their body, their time, and stuff like that, it’s only right for everyone on our team to give it their all for the seniors.”
In his first pass attempt, he threw deep to the right side to an open Felton for a 37-yard connection. He did not seem too affected by the injury, as he continued to find open men throughout the field. Roman Hemby capped off the second half opening drive with a right-side eight-yard rush for his third touchdown of the game.
“It felt good to get back in the endzone and spend that time [to] celebrate with my brothers,” Hemby said.
Rutgers continued to find no success on offense, and on defense, the team looked tired. The Terps spent most of the second half performing long drives to eat up time. Even when they were pinned inside their own 10, the team drove down the field with ease. A 27-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jones marked Tagovailoa’s 50th career touchdown pass – a new Maryland record.
When the record was announced, Jones held up Tagovailoa’s hand in victory, but Tagovailoa swapped positions so that he was holding Jones’s.
Jones, who was one of the 18 seniors honored before the game, finished with a career-high nine catches and 152 yards.
“It’s been a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve enjoyed every bit of it,” Jones said. “Honestly, [I] take the good with the bad and, you know, keep fighting.”
More backups were brought in afterwards as the Terps celebrated their seventh win of the season – their first shutout of a Big Ten opponent since joining the conference.
Maryland finished the season with a 7-5 record, a slight improvement from last year’s record of 6-6.
“As a program … we’re taking this next step forward,” linebacker Ahmad McCullough said. “Every win is important for us, because we’re building our championship team.”