No, it wasn’t pretty but Maryland did enough to pull off a 31-24 win inside SECU Stadium as the Terps moved to 6-2 (3-2) to secure the sixth win in the last seven homecoming games. But more importantly, the win gave Maryland its coveted sixth win of the season and secured consecutive bowl appearances for the first time since the 2013/2014 season. Breaking down our instant reactions from Saturday’s game versus the Wildcats:
New QB Under Center
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Maryland had its first change at quarterback since the 2020 season with Billy Edwards Jr. stepping in to replace Taulia Tagovailoa as the starter. Taulia, who didn’t dress or warm up, was watching along the sideline coaching up the Terps’ new starter as there were both highs and lows.
After entering the game as the only team in the country to score on the opening drive in each of the first seven games, Maryland’s offense went three-and-out to start the game after Edwards’s third-down pass to Demus sailed high. Maryland would punt on their first three possessions of the day as the offense amassed just 14 yards of total offense to start the game, which in turn helped Northwestern start near midfield on each drive through the first quarter. Maryland’s defense was able to limit the Wildcats’ offensive efficiency on the opening two drives, forcing a pair of punts, but Northwestern took advantage on its third drive after a quick 46-yard pass pinned the Terps’ defense deep in their own territory. Northwestern would be first to find the endzone just two plays later, but the Terps would answer right back.
Edwards flashed his poise in the pocket and did well picking up the Northwestern pressure up the middle, leveraging his legs to extend the play while also finding Corey Dyches just overtop the Northwestern defense to keep the drive alive. Maryland would eventually tie the game thanks to a 14-yard rushing touchdown by Roman Hemby. Despite showing signs of life, though, Maryland wasn’t able to sustain its momentum. After going three-and-out on the next drive, Maryland was able to find success on Northwestern’s defense before the half and drove inside the redzone on a 16-play drive. The concerning aspect? Seven of the 16 plays came inside the Northwestern 10 and the Terps failed to capitalize on a penalty that set the offense up at the two-yard line. Maryland was forced to settle for three to bring the game back to a one-score battle heading into the locker room.
The running lanes were there and what Edwards did well is using his legs to extend plays and evade Northwestern’s swarming pressure up the middle, but there’s little doubt that there were some throws that Edwards wishes he had back. While Edwards showed off his accuracy such as on the throw to Dyches in the first quarter, Edwards struggled with his accuracy on other throws that hindered Maryland’s ability to extend drives. Maryland was able to play a turnover-free game as Edwards leaned on that athleticism, but he also got a chance to show off his deep touch late in the third quarter. With the game tied at 17 and Maryland outside the redzone, Edwards found a wide-open Rakim Jarrett on a corner route before walking it in for a touchdown and giving the Terps their first lead of the game.
The second half was a different story, though, as the Terps scored points on three of its first four drives to take the first lead of the day. Once the rushing attack got going, Maryland leaned on Edwards and the rushing attack to close out the game. Still, it was a turnover-free day for Maryland as Edwards finished 18-of-28 for 166 yards and one touchdown.
Northwestern’s Offense Controls Maryland’s Defense
With the inside linebackers hampered by injuries heading into the game, it was Ahmad McCullough and Fa’Najae Gotay who drew the start while Gereme Spraggins filled as the third rotational player and was all over the field, recording the first tackle for loss of the day. But still, what Maryland fans hoped to see the offense do against Northwestern was in fact executed against the Terps’ defense. Northwestern took full advantage of Maryland’s limited depth in the front seven as they eclipsed the century mark on the ground before halftime and averaged nearly five yards per carry. Star running back Evan Hull, who also eclipsed 100-yard rushing before the end of the third quarter, helped those efforts but that production included quarterback Brendan Sullivan who started over Ryan Hillinski in an unexpected decision. It didn’t help Maryland’s defense that Sullivan did well to make defenders miss in space as half of the Wildcats’ third-down conversions in the first half came on the ground.
Sullivan finished with 53 yards on 13 carries, ending with an identical rushing average to Maryland QB Billy Edwards (4.1). Additionally, 90 of Northwestern’s 215 rushing yards came in the second quarter alone when the Wildcats averaged over six yards per carry, but Maryland was able to capitalize on one big play when Northwestern attacked through the air. On the opening drive of the second half, safety Dante Trader stopped Northwestern’s drive near midfield after reeling in his second interception of the season and giving the Terps’ defense its first takeaway on the day. In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, Maryland’s defense had to make one more stop after Chad Ryland missed a field goal that would have put Maryland up 27-17. Northwestern leaned on the rushing attack once more and fed Hull, but when they went to the air, it resulted in a second interception for Beau Brade this season and a chance for the Terps’ offense to close the game out with a pair of first downs. While running back Evan Hull was expected to give Maryland’s run defense fits, Northwestern’s 215 rushing yards are the most allowed since week four’s matchup versus Michigan.
RB Roman Hemby Shines
All Maryland fans knew that in order to pull out the win with Edwards under center, the offense would need to feed the rushing attack going against the second-worst run defense in the conference. Maryland struggled to do so consistently to open the game, and finished with just 37 yards through the first half, but the focus would change over the last 30 minutes.
Despite recording just 25 yards rushing in the first half, 14 of those came within the first 90 seconds of the second quarter after punching in a 14-yard run to tie the game at seven. Then after Dante Trader Jr. recorded the first interception of the game on the opening drive of the second half, it would be Hemby once more who’d find the endzone, this time on an 18-yard run. Then with the game tied at 24 with under four minutes remaining, it was Hemby’s time to shine once more. After breaking into the second level, Hemby was off to the races and punched in a 75-yard rushing touchdown to give Maryland the lead right back. His third rushing touchdown of the day gave him the most by a Terp since Javon Leake did so back in 2018, while his 179 yards were the most since posting 151 yards in week three’s win over SMU.
ROMAN HEMBY IS FASTER THAN YOU pic.twitter.com/DxFUaIgkCK
— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) October 22, 2022
Hemby’s efforts spearheaded the rushing attack on Saturday as Colby McDonald and Ramon Brown joined Billy Edwards as the lone players to record a rushing attempt, but it was a necessary performance for Maryland to finish off its sixth win of the season. The former John Carroll product was known for his big play ability out of high school and showed his ability to make plays in space, as evidenced by his first three 100-yard games, but Saturday’s performance was the catalyst for Maryland’s sixth win. Hemby entered Saturday with the second-most yards from scrimmage among any FBS freshman.
Next: Maryland is on a bye next week and will return to action on November 5 at Wisconsin.