Maryland football survives nightmare start, cruises by Charlotte

Taulia Tagovailoa stepped back in the pocket and looked downfield towards the end zone. Launching the ball from the 40-yard line, he found Kaden Prather who jumped up between two defenders, securing the catch and killing any last chances for Charlotte to retake the lead.

Coming off a 38-6 win against Towson, Maryland hosted its second game of the season against the Charlotte 49ers on September 9 at Secu Stadium.

Last season, the Terps trampled Charlotte in the second week of the season, 56-21. Saturday night’s outcome proved to be similar, with Maryland walking away with a 38-20 victory.

“We didn’t meet the standard today,” head coach Mike Locksley said to open his post-game presser. “But we overcame some early adversity, which kind of showed me that we’re the type of team I thought we could be.”

The 49ers started off with the ball. After four-straight rush attempts, quarterback Jalon Jones threw a deep 48-yard pass to wide receiver Jairus Mack who ran another five yards for the touchdown. 

On his first snap of the game, QB Taulia Tagovailoa threw an intercepted pass that was intended for running back Roman Hemby. Linebacker Demetrius Knight II caught the pass at Maryland’s own 16-yard line, returning the ball for a touchdown.

The Terps trailed by two scores in just over just three minutes of play. Unable to do anything in their next two drives, Maryland went into the second quarter with only 15 yards gained and zero points scored.

Starting with the ball in the second quarter, Tagovailoa upped the momentum for Maryland by airing out a 29-yard pass to WR Tai Felton, putting the Terps just inside the red zone. Unable to get a touchdown, kicker Jack Howes took the field to give the Terps their first three points of the game.

On Maryland’s next drive, Hemby caught a 37-yard pass from Tagovailoa, advancing from Maryland’s 43-yard line to Charlotte’s 17. Antwain Littleton II had two straight carries to get to the seven-yard line but received an unnecessary roughness penalty that put the Terps back on the 20. The drive ended with a 38-yard field goal from Howes, bringing the score to 6-14.

“Just being more of a key role in the passing game is something that I took with a lot of respect and importance,” Hemby said postgame. “I felt it enabled me to give the team a lot of momentum and encouragement, because that was a time when we really needed it.”

Maryland had just over a minute to play on its final drive of the half. From Charlotte’s 32-yard line, Tagovailoa sent a pass to WR Kaden Prather in the endzone, but a push-off penalty nullified the touchdown. Howes walked on to kick his third field goal that put the Terps within five points at half.

Defensive leaders for Maryland at halftime were Tarheeb Still with five tackles (three solo), Caleb Wheatland with four tackles (three solo) and Beau Brade with four tackles (two solo).

A 40-yd kickoff return from Roman Hemby landed Maryland on Charlotte’s 35-yard line to start the half. A pass to WR Jeshaun Jones a few snaps later placed the Terps on the one-yard line, and the drive finished with a rushing touchdown from backup quarterback Billy Edwards Jr. 

Attempting the two-point conversion, Tagovailoa completed a short pass to Tai Felton, giving Maryland its first lead of the game with the score at 17-14.

As Charlotte remained scoreless, a 20-yard rush from Hemby on the next drive put the Terps two yards short of the red zone. Five snaps later, an 18-yard touchdown pass intended for Kaden Prather was picked off by DB Kameron Howard, resulting in a touchback. 

To start the fourth quarter, Maryland attempted a series of rush attempts to reach Charlotte’s 23-yard line. On his fourth attempt of the series, junior RB Colby McDonald split to the left side for a lengthy touchdown run. Maryland extended its lead, 24-14. 

Finally sparking some momentum for the 49ers, Jalon Jones scrambled for a 48-yard gain to land his team on Maryland’s 23-yard line. Two plays later, Jones attempted a short pass to tight end Colin Weber, but the pass was intercepted by lineman Donnell Brown.

“I saw the quarterback turn his shoulder, but I didn’t know it was coming to me,” Brown said after the game. “I just saw the ball, caught it and kept going.”

Maryland took advantage of the turnover. After two rush attempts from Hemby, Tagovailoa threw a long-ball to Kaden Prather who made the contested catch in the endzone. The Terps led 31-14 with just over eight minutes to play.

A 24-yard run from Hemby on the next drive proved Maryland would not let up. In just four snaps, Hemby finished the series with a 15-yard run to the endzone.

Sophomore quarterback Trexler Ivey took the field for Charlotte to end the game. A 37-yard catch from Jairus Mack put the 49ers on Maryland’s two-yard line, and the drive ended with a touchdown from RB Joachim Bangda.

An unsuccessful two-point attempt left the score at 38-20, giving Maryland its second straight win to start the season.

“We have to clean up some of the stuff that hurt us early in the game,” Locksley said. “There were a couple interceptions, turnovers, but those are all things that we can get corrected and need to correct pretty quickly.”