Instant Reactions: Maryland 34, SMU 27

It wasn’t easy and Maryland’s defense allowed over 500 yards of total offense, but in the end, Maryland did enough on offense to move to 3-0 with Big Ten play set to begin next week. Breaking down our instant reactions from a high-powered offensive showing:

  • SMU passing attack dominates…the Mustangs threw the ball seemingly at will all night with receiver Rashee Rice coming down with nearly every pass that came his way. QB Tanner Mordecai eclipsed 250 passing yards by halftime with completions to seven different receivers, picking apart Maryland’s secondary every time. Maryland did take advantage late in the second quarter and came down with the first interception of the season thanks to a high pass from Mordecai, but outside of that, SMU exposed a Maryland secondary with a pair of veterans leading the way. After being ruled out earlier this week, cornerback Tarheeb Still did end up suiting up and went through warmups but played sporadically on Saturday night. At the end of his first play of the game, Still came off the field and was tended to by the training staff but later returned to the game. But Maryland never had an answer for SMU’s offense, allowing 369 yards through the air as Mordecai finished the night 29-of-54 for 369 yards. Maryland did come down with a pair of timely interceptions including a fourth-quarter pick by Dante Trader to stop SMU from driving into Maryland territory. Still, Maryland allowed the most yards since last year’s loss against Michigan as SMU amassed 520 yards of total offense.
  • Miscues loom large…14 penalties for 136 yards. While the secondary was exposed against SMU’s high-powered offense, arguably the biggest disappointment was the lack of execution by Maryland on both sides of the ball. Though Maryland has had multiple games of ten or more penalties, or 100 or more penalty yards, Maryland’s penalties were the most under the Locksley era and a sign of concern for a veteran Maryland team. Maryland suffered three early false starts, two of them called on left guard Mason Lunsford, but that was only the beginning. Maryland brought the early deficit back to three points and had a chance to take back the lead to open the second quarter, but again, penalties held the team back. After Taulia Tagovailoa used his legs to pick up the first down, it was Jeshaun Jones who was called for a blindside block that pushed the Terps deeper into their own territory. The penalty loomed large as the Terps were ultimately forced to punt, despite Jeshaun Jones possibly coming down with the sideline catch on a play that was ruled incomplete. On the opening drive of the second half, Maryland drove right into the SMU redzone before an illegal formation penalty then illegal snap pushed Maryland back. After the Terps worked their way back to the SMU six-yard line, Maryland was then called for two penalties—a holding and unsportsmanlike call—that pushed the offense back to the SMU 31. Instead of a touchdown, Maryland was forced to settle for a 41-yard field goal.
  • Sporadic Maryland passing attack…Statistically, Taulia had another solid outing after going 17-of-23 for 214 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but the eyeball test yielded slightly different results. Maryland struggled to stretch the field against SMU and attempted just four passes over 15 yards, one resulting in a 48-yard touchdown by Rakim Jarrett. Maryland was able to get TE Corey Dyches and RB Roman Hemby involved in the passing attack but Dontay Demus? He finished with just one catch for five yards. Demus also suffered a bad drop after a deep ball went through his hands on 3rd-and-9 midway through the fourth quarter, but the offense was able to overcome to miscue thanks to a clutch catch and second effort from Corey Dyches to keep the drive alive—a drive that ended with a six-yard receiving touchdown for Dyches. Still, the trio of Jarrett, Demus and Copeland combined for just four catches for 83 yards. Corey Dyches finished with a team-high six catches while Jarrett finished with the most receiving yards, but Maryland’s aerial attack has noticeable kinks to iron out ahead of a stout Michigan defense.
  • Third down conversions…Maryland struggled against Buffalo on third down and similar issues reemerged against the Mustangs defense. Maryland finished just 5-of-13 on 3rd down and was 1-of-6 on attempts longer than four yards. On the flip side, SMU was efficient and converted ten of their 21 attempts on the night. Both teams averaged nearly six yards per third down attempt and against stiffer competition, the execution needs to be tighter for Maryland on both sides of the ball. Maryland did convert its lone fourth down attempt, ironically a play that set up the go-ahead touchdown, while SMU finished 2-of-5 on fourth down.
  • Injury bug…Maryland saw a handful of players go down against the Mustangs, especially in the first half. Linebacker Ruben Hyppolite was first to go down on the first defensive series of the game and later went to the locker room. Safety Beau Brade went down on the next defensive series but later returned to the game. Wide receiver Jacob Copeland was the third player to go down after hobbling off the field after punting the ball with just 90 seconds left in the first half but returned for the second half. Freshman quarterback Cam Edge, redshirt freshman tight end Leron Husbands and senior running back Challen Faamatau were also inactive on Saturday night.
  • DL rotation…Defensively, Maryland rotated their defensive line in bunches. Fans got a chance to see defensive tackle Taizse Johnson in action for the first time this season, while Austin Fontaine saw increased snaps against the Mustangs. The heavy rotations helped limit the big plays on the ground, holding the Mustangs to just 3.6 yards per carry, while strong plays from Jaishawn Barham, Ahmad McCullough and Greg China-Rose helped the front seven at times. After registering just one sack in last week’s win over Charlotte, Maryland registered a pair of sacks including an early takedown from Jaishawn Barham.
  • Shining star…One bright spot for the offense? Running back Roman Hemby. For the second time this season, fans got a chance to see the top end speed that the Bel Air native possesses in full go as he recorded his second career 100-yard game on the ground. Hemby also did well in pass protection at times, a key reason why he was listed as the sole starter heading into the season. Hemby’s one-yard touchdown to open the fourth quarter tied the game at 27 while he also recorded a pair of rushes over 20 yards including a 50-yard rush on the Terps’ first offensive play from scrimmage. While Maryland’s receivers iron out the kinks of the passing attack, Hemby has made himself a clear player in the backfield.

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