Maryland Football’s Offense Takes Command in Charlotte Blowout

Maryland football had its first road test against Charlotte, and the 49ers were looking to avoid an 0-3 start to their season. After the way the Terps played today, that wasn’t a possibility.

Winning on the road is really tough. When you look at our team, as I described it, we have a veteran group that kind of runs the top, and they understand how we do things. We’ve got a lot of really young players on the bottom end. Typically, we have a little bit more of a group in the middle that has experience,” Terps head coach Mike Locksley said about the road game.

He added there’s a good mix of young and older players, so it was a good opportunity for the young guys to get experience playing an out-of-conference opponent and get a feel for how the team travels and prepares.

Coming into this game, the Terps got an outstanding performance against Buffalo from Roman Hemby and Rakim Jarrett, who had 100-yard rushing and receiving games.

While Terps failed to find the end zone through the air in week one, the hope was that would change against Charlotte.

Special teams are an area to watch throughout this season simply because the kick and punt game determines field position, and if you can win that battle, you’ll have a better chance of winning.

The Terps have the great fortune of having Hemby, Jarrett, Jeshaun Jones, and Jacob Copeland help that unit. Freshman Octavian Smith Jr. had a 44-yard kick return against Buffalo. Look for him to be a bright spot on special teams.

The defense flew around against the Bulls and got seven sacks in that game. While Maryland football head coach Mike Locksley was happy with that, he said he wanted to see this defense get turnovers and be more disciplined with penalties in the secondary this week.

Charlotte came into this game off a blowout loss to William & Mary. Their starting quarterback Chris Reynolds went down with an injury. 49ers head coach Chris Healy kept it quiet who the quarterback would be on Saturday. Xavier Williams saw extended time under center, threw for 201 yards, and scored twice on the ground.

It was announced Saturday morning that Williams would get his first career start.

Maryland football offense finds the end zone easily

You couldn’t ask for a better first half out of Maryland football. The running game carried the load against Buffalo. Against Charlotte, the passing game led the way.

Tai Felton and Jones got the ball rolling for the Terps offensively with two 14-yard receptions. Copeland got behind the 49ers’ defense for a 39-yard touchdown. Taulia Tagovailoa scored the first touchdown of the season, and it was a welcome sight for the Terps’ passing game after struggling to find the end zone against Buffalo.

Back-to-back defensive penalties on Jakorian Bennett (defensive pass interference) and Tommy Akingbesote (illegal hands to the face) kept the 49ers’ drive alive. The 49ers were aggressive on their first drive, going for it on fourth down.

They converted three fourth-down plays; the latest came from a shotgun run by Chavon McEachern. That set up a Grant Dubose 11-yard touchdown on a fade route. Deonte Banks had the coverage on the play.

Coach Will Healy’s aggressive nature cost him as the 49ers failed to convert an onside kick and the 49ers committed kick catch interference.

A 17-yard reception by Hemby set up a 14-yard touchdown by Jones in the red zone for Tagovailoa’s second touchdown of the day.

Jones came across the formation and got a nice block from Jarrett to get in the end zone

Both offenses came out firing to start this game, and the points were going on the board fast.

On Maryland’s third game drive, Antwain Littleton took the ball up the middle for a 59-yard touchdown. The Terps were 3-for-3 on touchdown drives. The score at this point was 21-7, Terps.

The 49ers opened the second half with a scoring drive thanks to a 50-yard Elijah Spencer reception. Victor Tucker finished it off with a 19-yard score. The 49ers were down 21-14 after the extra point.

Jacob Copeland scored his second touchdown of the day after beating 49ers safety Wayne Jones down the field for 45 yards, 28-14 Terps. The Terps had four drives for touchdowns in five plays or less.

Under seven minutes to go in the first half, Dontay Demus Jr. got in on the action with a bruising catch and run for 23 yards.

A delay of game and false start penalty didn’t stop them from keeping their touchdown streak alive. Tagovailoa found Jones for his second touchdown of the game with a 16-yard pass. Under five minutes to go, the Terps had a 35-14 lead.

At this point, Tagovailoa had a near-perfect game (16-for-17, 269 yards, four touchdowns).

The efficiency Locksley was looking for offensively, he got in the first half minus the penalties and the interception his quarterback threw when looking for Demus Jr. down the right side of the field.

The Terps had five penalties for 28 yards in the first half. While that is negative, they finished the half with 403 yards of total offense, averaging 14 yards per play. They were up 35-14 going into halftime.

Williams did some good things for the 49ers as well. He finished the half 14-of-21, with 149 yards and two touchdown passes to Dubose and Tucker.

The Terps’ defense did a good job holding the 49ers’ rushing attack to 41 yards.

Locksley said after the game that the coaching staff continues to stress the importance of getting takeaways. He thought the defense did a good job of limiting the big plays.

“Obviously, we would love to have more turnovers. We’ll get in and get a chance to evaluate the film. We need to get more pressure on the quarterback. There is no doubt about it; for as many opportunities as we had to rush the quarterback, we need to look at how we’re rushing the passer.”

Tagovailoa exits with injury; Terps finish strong

Charlotte’s first drive ended in another punt giving them four drives with only two first downs.

Tagovailoa scored his fifth touchdown by running to the left side for four yards. The Terps had a commanding 42-14 lead.

A scary moment came after he turned his ankle running out of the end zone. He limped off to the sideline under his own power, but that will be something to keep an eye on.

Billy Edwards Jr. took over under center for the rest of the game.

Locksley was glad he could play Edwards Jr. and liked how he executed the offense, allowing it to stay in rhythm.

“We wanted to stay in our offensive system. We could have easily turned around and just handed it off, but we have to develop our team. In no form did we want to try to run the score up. We were looking to just run our base offense. We used time on the clock. I was happy to see how he executed, the four-minute system, without necessarily having to go into our huddle mode. He took what the defense gave him; made a play down the field, Octavian on the boot play. It was great to see the way he executed it.”

Colby McDonald scored his first touchdown of the season, running up the middle for 49 yards, giving the Terps a 49-14 lead.

Tagovailoa did appear on the sideline with a big smile, which is comforting.

He did come back out for one play to give the Terps a fourth down conversion on a 25-yard pass to Freshman Leon Haughton Jr.

“Yeah. I know [there] wasn’t Sun, but it was humid out there. Throughout the drive, I was cramping my right calf and then had to run the ball,” Tagovailoa said about the injury after the TD run. “So you know how that goes? Everything just locked up. So happy I got in the zone before I did. …I feel good.”

That led to a first for both Edwards Jr. and Smith. They connected on their first touchdown as a pair to give the Terps a 56-14 lead.

Tagovailoa ended the game with an efficient stat line: 27-of-31, 391 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception.

Copeland led the receivers with 110 yards on four catches and two touchdowns. McDonald and Littleton led the running backs with a combined 120 yards and two touchdowns.

Copeland has learned a lot since coming to Maryland and playing with Tagovailoa and described him as 1-of-1 when he gets in his zone and everything is flowing.

“He’s a different animal, man. He’s his own animal, put it that way. Like when he gets in his mode, and he’s feeling good about the situation, the game, or whatever situation he in, he’s gonna make the best of it and continue with that. That’s what I picked up and learned from him since I’ve been here. Since I’ve been here, it’s been good vibes with him.”

The Terps left Charlotte winning big, 56-21.

Final Thoughts:

Maryland football had another great showing. Scoring five touchdowns on your five drives is a great way to show what your offense is capable of.

The defense, on the other hand, has some things to fix. The secondary did get exposed against the talented wide receivers that Charlotte had. They didn’t create any turnovers in this game, which is Locksley’s point of emphasis.

The defense will have to shape up against SMU next week when the Terps face their first real test of the 2022 season.

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