Instant reactions: Maryland 38, Charlotte 20

Maryland overcame an early deficit and scored 38 unanswered points to defeat Charlotte 31-14, moving to 2-0 for the eighth time over the last nine seasons as the Terps won their tenth consecutive non-conference game.

Maryland has now scored at least 30 points in all but two non-conference games under Mike Locksley, as we break down all the action from SECU Stadium:

Slow start dooms Maryland

Maryland’s defense entered Saturday night not allowing a touchdown in their last three games, but that changed quickly.

After Charlotte opened the game with four consecutive rushes to break into Maryland territory, QB Jalon Jones took advantage of a breakdown in Maryland’s secondary for a 48-yard touchdown—on his first pass of the game. The opening score marked the first touchdown allowed by Maryland’s defense since the Ohio State game back on Nov. 19, 2022. The shock didn’t end there for Maryland.

After recovering their own fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Maryland’s first play from scrimmage: a pick-six from Taulia. Suddenly, it was all Charlotte just three minutes into the game with a commanding 14-0 lead just three minutes into the game.

Maryland couldn’t break through in response, though, amassing -2 total yards of offense through its first three drives, as the slow start was met with boos inside the half-filled SECU Stadium.

After that, Taulia Tagovailoa would finish the first half 14-for-18 for 184 yards as the passing attack began showing signs of life.

Jeshaun Jones would help spark that flame, hauling in a 17-yard catch on the final play of the first quarter as the offense clung to its renewed momentum heading into the second quarter. Taulia found four different receivers on the fourth drive of the game, highlighted by a 29-yard catch along the sideline by Tai Felton, to set up Jack Howes for his first of three first-half field goal attempts to get the Terps on the scoreboard.

On the next offensive series, Taulia hit Roman Hemby on a screen that went for 37 yards before an unsportsmanlike call on RB Antwain Littleton pushed the Terps back out of the redzone, settling for another field goal.

After forcing Charlotte into its fourth consecutive punt of the half, Maryland was able to reclaim momentum in the final 68 seconds of the first half, though, as a seven-play, 53-yard drive ended in Jack Howes’ third field goal make of the night to trim Charlotte’s lead to 14-9 heading into the locker room. The gradual success on offense set the stage for the second half, but the lackluster execution through the first 20 minutes gave the Niners life.

Concern with Maryland’s redzone efficiency

Maryland would break into the redzone on two of their final three drives of the first half, with the third pushing them right outside just prior to halftime, but squandered early chances to put more points on the board.

Maryland’s first drive inside the 20 didn’t yield much as a short run and a pair of incompletions set Jack Howes up for his first attempt,  in a 32-yard field goal, while an unsportsmanlike against Antwain Littleton pushed the offense back to the Charlotte 20, setting up a 38-yard field goal conversion.

After stopping Charlotte near midfield with just over one minute left in the first half, Maryland’s passing attack took them right back down the field as Taulia found four different receivers to put the offense at the Charlotte 32. A questionable pass interference against Kaden Prather on a deep ball down the left sideline would force Maryland into another field goal attempt on the final drive of the first half, this time from 45 yards as Maryland trimmed the deficit to 14-9 heading into the locker room.

That changed in the second half, though, as offensive coordinator Josh Gattis turned to QB2 in the short-yardage situations. After Roman Hemby was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on third down, it would be Billy Edwards Jr. who replaced Taulia for the second play of the game, setting up a QB keeper into the endzone for the Terps’ first touchdown—and lead—of the night.

Edwards Jr. would remain the quarterback in short-yardage situations, replacing Taulia on another 4th-and-one on the next possession, but after a pair of defensive penalties extended Maryland’s second drive of the second half, Taulia’s pass intended for WR Kaden Prather was welcomed by double coverage for an interception and the second Maryland turnover of the night.

Battle in the trenches

Maryland was hopeful that they’d enter Saturday night closer to full-health, and appeared to have a key piece back in the fold.

After being ruled out in the season-opening win vs. Towson, lineman Gottlieb Ayedze was available on Saturday as he was in pads and warming up with the rest of the unit pregame. Still, Maryland turned back to its usual five as Ayedze never saw the field..

From left to right, Maryland’s starting five was DJ Glaze, Corey Bullock, Aric Harris, Amelio Moran and Conor Fagan. With the early deficit, Maryland also avoided rotations as the offensive line unit tried to find its groove, but Mike Purcell would replace Harris at center to begin the second half while Kyle Long filled in for Moran in the fourth quarter. Taulia Tagovailoa did well in the first half climbing the pocket to avoid Charlotte’s pressure, but the interior line struggled for the second consecutive week as the biggest question mark remains a viable concern heading into week three despite not allowing a sack.

Charlotte was able to control the line of scrimmage through stretches of the first half, amassing three tackles behind the line as Maryland’s rushing attack struggled to hit the holes. Roman Hemby would give the offense a boost, kicking off the second half with a 40-yard run as the impact back began tallying the big plays needed to jolt the offense. As the second half progressed, so did the Terps’ play in the trenches as the chunk plays were a byproduct of a stronger push up front. In fact, Maryland was able to amass seven plays over 15 yards on the ground over the final 30 minutes.

Hemby would serve as the catalyst for Maryland’s offense, finishing with 217 yards of total offense including an average of 8.5 yards per carry in the win. Hemby accounted for four of the seven big plays on the ground in the win, along with tallying a 37-yard catch-and-run midway through the third quarter, while Colby McDonald added 73 yards and recorded his first touchdown since last year’s game vs. Michigan State.

On the opposite end, Maryland’s front seven adjusted to the deep stable of runners in the Niners’ rushing attack, led by quarterback Jalon Jones. Maryland frequently rotated its inside backers through the night, though it’d once again be Beau Brade who finished with a team-high six tackles. Maryland’s level rush remained a work in progress, though, losing contain on a handful of plays including a 48-yard rush by Jalon Jones in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.

But the defense would rebound with its first takeaway of the season after Donnell Brown read Jalon Jones eyes, hauling in an interception off the edge and setting the offense up near midfield with just over nine minutes left in the game. Maryland’s second turnover came minutes later after Taizse Johnson forced a fumble on Jalon Jones before Sean Greeley came up with the recovery.

In the end, Maryland’s defense forced six consecutive punts followed by a pair of turnovers along with three sacks and six tackles for loss to seal the win. After allowing 88 yards on the first two series, Maryland’s defense limited Charlotte to 209 yards the final 45 minutes.

Maryland would allow the final touchdown of the game with 82 seconds left after Joachim Bangda punched in a one-yard rush, ending 38 unanswered points by the Terrapins.

Notes

-QB Taulia Tagovailoa finished 25-of-36 for 287 yards and one TD, two INTs.

-Seven different players caught at least one pass with Corey Dyches finishing with a team-high six catches and Kaden Prather finishing with a team-high 80 receiving yards.

-Maryland won its 21st consecutive game after leading three quarter

-LB Jaishawn Barham recorded his second career two-sack game.

-CB Gavin Gibson went through warmups, but was in street clothes for kickoff as he battles back from a lower leg injury.

-SAF Glen Miller, who was listed as questionable, was among the defensive starters.

-WR Jeshaun Jones became the 17th wide receiver in program history to record at least 100 career receptions. Jones now sits 14th in career catches.

-RB Roman Hemby finished with 162 rushing yards, recording his fifth career 100-yard plus game as a Terrapin, while adding another 55 receiving yards. Hemby also has five rushes of 40 yards or more in his career.

-Scouts from the Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts were among the teams in attendance on Saturday night

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