Instant Reactions: Maryland 16, NC State 12

Maryland is your Duke’s Mayo Bowl winner.

Maryland held off NC State late for a 16-12 win inside Bank of America Stadium on Friday afternoon to give the Terps an 8-5 (4-5) finish to the 2022 season. Breaking down our instant reactions from Friday’s game:

Change in the Rotation with Young Stars Shining

Maryland had a slight adjustment to its starting offense with both quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and center Johari Branch sidelined on the first series, as was inside linebacker Jaishawn Barham on the defensive side of the ball.

That meant Billy Edwards Jr. would make his second start of the season and a 45-yard catch and run to Jeshaun Jones pushed Maryland into the redzone in the opening minutes of the game. But the drive would stall after NC State recorded its first of five tackles for loss, ending an early scoring opportunity. After Ben Finley surprisingly got the nod for the Wolfpack, Maryland would benefit after Fa’Najae Gotay reeled in an interception deep in Wolfpack territory, but Taulia squandered the opportunity after tossing NC State its 19th interception of the season.

NC State would kick off the scoring on a 38-yard field goal as the Terps responded back with a 42-yard field goal just three minutes later, but the first big play of the game came courtesy of freshman wide receiver Octavian Smith. An eight-play drive was highlighted by an 11-yard catch and run by Roman Hemby followed by a 26-yard catch by Tai Felton, but on the eighth play of the drive facing a 3rd-and-14, Taulia threw a back shoulder fade to Smith where the former four-star product hauled in an impressive catch on the 50-50 ball.

Maryland tacked on another field goal to extend the lead to 13-9 in the second half, but a second interception by Taulia would give NC State a prime scoring opportunity with just over eleven minutes remaining. After holding the Wolfpack to three, Maryland was able to drive back down the field to set Ryland up for his third field goal of the day from 46 yards out.

Taulia was able to stretch the field on a crucial third down in the second half on a dime to Corey Dyches on the corner route as the veteran quarterback finished 19-of-37 for 221 yards and a touchdown. It was enough for an offense that struggled with consistency on the day as the Terps finished with just 76 yards on 41 rushes, but eight different receivers with at least one catch sealed it. Jeshaun Jones, Corey Dyches and Tai Felton all finished with four catches on the day while Jones led the way with a game-high 79 receiving yards.

Third Down, Redzone Defense Shines Bright

Neither offense was able to put a consistent performance together on Friday as the Wolfpacks’ pressure in the front seven proved too much for Maryland’s offensive line and quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, but Maryland’s defense helped keep the game close.

Maryland’s defense was able to stand after holding the Wolfpack to 27 rushing yards on 18 attempts and 5-of-18 on third downs. While Barham was absent for the first series, he was able to make his presence felt later thanks to a bone crushing hit on third down to force one of seven NC State punts on the day, while Fa’Najae Gotay came away with the first takeaway of the game. The Wolfpack were able to capitalize on a handful of throws with the Terps’ secondary in zone coverage, but Finley would prove to be just 9-of-24 on throws more than five yards downfield with cornerbacks Jakorian Bennett and Tarheeb Still flashing along the outside.

Maryland’s defense would be faced with another short field after Taulia’s second interception, but they would stand tall once more. After taking over at the 35, Finley found Chris Toudle for a 19-yard reception to enter the redzone for the second time on the day. But three plays later, NC State was only able to pick up seven yards as NC State was forced to settle for its second redzone field goal of the day.

After Maryland failed to pick up a crucial first down with less than three minutes left in the game, the defense would have to stand tall once more and it was fitting that Jakorian Bennett reeled in the game-sealing interception while matched up against Darryl Jones, a former Maryland receiver. Friday’s win marked the third time this season that Maryland reeled in two interceptions as the secondary held Finley to a 46% completion percentage.

Beau Brade, who overcame a targeting call to remain in the game, led the way with several total tackles and six solo while Greg China Rose, Tank Booker and VanDarius Cowan also notched tackles for loss.

Step Forward in Locksley’s Fourth Year 

First eight-win season in twelve years. First time that Maryland has secured back-to-back bowl victories in twenty years. After moving to 10-1 against non-conference opponents under head coach Mike Locksley, Friday’s win became the latest piece of validation under Locksley as the program takes a step forward.

Maryland fans have shown patience after the first years entering the Big Ten, met with blowout losses against the Big Ten’s best. But while 2021 got the Terps back to their first bowl game in several seasons, 2022 gave Locksley and Co. a chance to maintain the standard that a bowl game remains the expectation. Sure, the offense saw its highs and lows while the defense surpassed expectations under first-year coordinator Brian Williams, but the eighth win of the season to come over a ranked NC State team provides further credence that while there’s room to grow, Locksley’s vision is beginning to blossom heading into another offseason.

Related Links

Portal OL expected to officially visit Maryland (+)

Preview: Maryland men’s basketball wraps up nonconference play vs. UMBC

Shell-N-Tell: Put Up Your Duke’s

Virginia four-star has strong connections to Maryland (+)