Maryland running backs have a big day vs. the Buffalo Bulls in Maryland football’s season opener

Maryland Terrapins football is back. The Terps took on the Buffalo Bulls Saturday. With Taulia Tagovailoa under center, the buzz surrounded the offense since the Terps offense has so many playmakers at wide receiver.

The good news for the Terps is that Dontay Demus Jr. and Jeshaun Jones are back and healthy. This game was our first chance to see them in-game action. As Ruben Hyppolite II said in his presser Tuesday, Demus Jr.’s energy spreads throughout the team, and they feed off it.

So, you know that him making plays in this game would give his teammates an extra boost of confidence and excite the crowd.

We were also going to get a good look at the running backs for Maryland. They were a group that came in as an underrated part of the offense, but showed real promise that they could be a featured group.

Maryland Terrapins head coach Mike Locksley was proud of the way the team played, but recognized that there are still things to clean up.

“As I expect us to, I was proud of the way that our defense played. I thought those guys did a pretty good job of keeping ’em out of the end zone. There was plenty of things that we can still get cleaned up. [As] I said, usually you see a big, your biggest jump as a team is from week one to week two,” Locksley said post-game. “It’s been the history. I expect us to get some stuff cleaned up. It’s always better to be able to do it after a victory, which we’re really fortunate to have gotten it done here in the shell today. You saw some explosive plays out of the running back room. Roman, he had a big game for us.”

He said that he wants to see the team get more plays in on offense. The goal for them is 80 plays. They got 59 against the Bulls Saturday because of their lack of success on third down.

“The only way you get to that is to be good on third down. I think we were 4-of-13 today on third down. That’s what allows you to be able to sustain drives and allows you to get more opportunities, especially with the type of playmakers we have on the offensive side of the [ball]. Again,  proud of the way the guys fought through today.”

Defensively, the Terps finally have the depth along the defensive line they have been without in previous years, led by Ami Finau, Mosiah Nasili-Kite, and Greg China-Rose.

The Terps also came into this game with a talented linebacker group led by Hyppolite II. They bolstered it with the additions of West Virginia transfer linebacker VanDarius Cowan and Freshman All-American Jaishawn Barham.

Don’t forget about Durrell Nchami; he’s back from injury last season and looking to wreak havoc on Buffalo’s offense.

The Terps defense set the tone early with two key stops by Nasili-Kite and cornerback Dante Trader on Buffalo running back Ron Cook runs.

They were able to get the quarterback seven times Saturday, and that speaks to their depth and conditioning.

“I think the big thing is they push their pocket back into the lap of the quarterback, and a lot of the pass rush today came from the interior guys pushing that pocket back to where they flush the guy. It goes back to, like I said, being able to play a lot of players, which allows us to stay fresh, especially in a game like today. I thought our conditioning level really showed up in terms of our players. We didn’t have a lot of guys laying on the ground. Didn’t have a lot of guys cramping. And so our strength and conditioning staff, as well as the sports science people, really did a great job.”

Rakim Jarrett took a pass down the field 25 yards on their first offensive play, followed by a six-yard reception by Jones.

The Terps got on the board with a 33-yard run by running back Roman Hemby down the right sideline. The Terps led 7-0 early in the first quarter

Tagovailoa was an efficient 3-of-4 for 45 yards on that five-play, 78-yard drive.

On Buffalo’s second drive, Henry Chibueze, and Cowan sacked Bulls quarterback Cole Snyder, but a Dante Trader pass interference call gave the Bulls momentum.

A Snyder five-yard pass to Bulls wide receiver Justin Marshall led to a missed field goal opportunity by Alex McNulty.

Halfway through the first quarter, the Terps had two penalties on cornerback Beau Brade and Glendon Miller to keep Buffalo’s drive alive. The Terps’ defense held on a third and 15 thanks to a good pass rush forcing Snyder to throw the ball away.

Buffalo’s defense made a big play to end the half, sacking Tagovailoa for a 12-yard loss. The score was still 7-0.

Running back Antwain Littleton made a huge play in the red zone, breaking three tackles to get the Terps within scoring distance. He then scored on a two-yard run giving them a 14-0 lead.

Snyder broke free up the middle for a 17-yard run to Maryland’s 28-yard line. That drive stalled after two passes were broken up.

The Bulls were given another fourth-down play after an offsides penalty on another missed McNulty field goal. At this point, there was 9:14 left until halftime.

The Terps’ defense held once again on a fourth-and-two play with a Cook Jr. reception for one yard.

Jones and tight end CJ Dippre got the ball rolling for the Terps on their next drive, followed by a nice grab by Jacob Copeland. The Bulls defense made the stop, and kicker Chad Ryland extended the Terps’ lead to 17-0 with 6:30 to go until halftime.

The Bulls moved down the field quickly in nine plays for 75 yards, capped off with a 19-yard Al-Jay Henderson rushing touchdown down the left side of the field. Cole Harrity, Quian Williams, and Marlyn Johnson caught passes of six yards or more on the drive.

The Terps still led 17-7.

Buffalo’s defense made another stop to end a quarter and go into halftime, as Littleton was stopped for a loss on fourth and one.

Maryland football still had a 17-7 halftime lead.

Tagovailoa finished the first half with 175 passing yards. Jones led all the Terps receivers with 70 yards.

Both defenses did an excellent job stopping the run, as each team was held under 100 rushing yards.

The Terps started the second half with the football, and Hemby scored his second touchdown, taking the ball down the left sideline for 70 yards. It’s the longest rush by a Terp since Anthony McFarland scored an 80-yard touchdown in 2019. After a Ryland extra point, the score was 24-7, Terps.

Maryland’s first turnover of the game after Bulls safety Marcus Fuqua intercepted a pass meant for Dyches.

“I thought he did exactly what we want him to do. Typically, you see the shoulder drop, you see the air come out of his body. He came to the sideline, obviously, disappointed. For me, the self-correction, he knew right away, said, ‘I thought they were opening the middle of the field up, and he came back through the middle. I gotta confirm it post-snap.'” Locksley said about Tagovalioa’s thought process after the turnover.

Locksley added that there are things to clean up with his game and the surrounding units. He is happy to see his quarterback continue to grow emotionally on the field.

They recovered from that defensively as they stopped Buffalo on third down, which set the Terps up on their 20-yard line.

After an illegal hands to the face penalty on Jaelyn Duncan, Tagovailoa completed two passes to Dyches and Jones for moderate gains.

The score was still 24-7 heading into the fourth quarter, and the Terps had a good drive going.

Jarrett helped the Terps convert on fourth down with a 35-yard gain and earned his fifth career 100-yard game. He had six catches for 110 yards in the game.

After that play, a Dyches touchdown was called back after being reviewed. Littleton got those points back with a dive over the goal line to give the Terps a 31-7 lead after a Ryland kick. That drive was 11 plays for 79 yards.

Chibueze sacked Snyder to force another Bulls three and out. This afternoon, he had a great game and led the team with two sacks and four tackles.

Jakorian Bennett is another guy who had a solid performance on defense. His fifth pass breakup of the game forced a McNulty field goal that was good. 31-10 Terps with 5:33 left in the game.

“Jakorian is one of those guys that had a draft of grade to leave and probably would’ve got drafted this year. The reason he came back and used the COVID year is to improve his stock from that standpoint. One of the areas is he’s had a lot of pass breakups, but we need to see him create turnovers,” Locksley said about Bennett’s performance.

Locksley wants to see him convert those pass breakups into interceptions more often than not.

The Terps secured the win in their home opener 31-10 behind 437 total yards of offense. Tagovailoa finished with 290 passing yards. Hemby finished with 114 rushing yards and two touchdowns.