PISCATAWAY, N.J. — After two consecutive losses, Maryland football got back in the win column Saturday, defeating Rutgers 48-7 at SHI Stadium.
While they picked up the win, the Terps lost Josh Jackson within the final minute before halftime. The injury is a high-ankle sprain, head coach Mike Locksley said after the game, and there is no expected time table for Jackson at the moment.
Here are our biggest takeaways from the Terps’ first road win and first Big Ten win of the season.
- The first quarter was bad... really bad. Eliminating Maryland’s opening play on offense, which resulted in a 80-yard touchdown, the Terps and Scarlet Knights didn't look good in the first quarter. The two teams combined for 158 offensive yards and five first downs. And while Rutgers went 2-6 on third down conversions, Maryland wasn’t even able to convert one, finishing the quarter 0-3.
One area of offense that the Scarlet Knights had a favorable margin over the Terps in was the running game, totaling 66 yards compared to Maryland’s -6. Yes, -6.
For the third-straight game, the Terps offensive line struggled to create leverage in the first quarter, limiting any of the team’s offensive production. But after some communication, Maryland was able to make adjustments in the second quarter and put up 41 unanswered points from there on out.
“It just difficult for — especially since we have young guys on the field for them to see what’s going on then to be able to bring it to coach, tell coach what’s going on, and then for coach to make that adjustment,” senior offensive lineman Ellis McKennie said. “It took a few drives for us — where if we were more experienced we might of been able to do that quicker.”
2. It was a career day for the linebacker unit. After allowing 59 points to No. 12 Penn State, Maryland’s linebackers stepped up this week, and it started well before the game.
Ohio State transfer Keandre Jones called a player’s-only meeting for the whole team to express his concerns and get the Terps back on track earlier this week.
And that leadership resonated on the field Saturday as Jones recorded a career high in tackles (10), along with fellow linebackers Ayinde Eley (12) and Shaq Smith (7), who also notched career highs.
“[Penn State] was not a great outing by us, but it was our job to get it fixed this week and just improve,” Eley said. “We’re just going to do the same thing with [this] win — fix and make the corrections and then next week [we’re] just going to take the field and practice and just get better every day.”
The linebacker unit also had two interceptions against Rutgers quarterback Johnny Langan. In the fourth quarter, Langan rolled out to his right and was pursued by Eley and Jones. But before the redshirt freshman could get the throw away, Eley hit Langan high, decleating the quarterback and floating his pass attempt through the air. Senior linebacker Isaiah Davis, about five yards down field, grabbed the pass attempt and recorded his first career interception.
But Langan’s first interception came in the second quarter. Langan was looking towards the middle of the field in an attempt to hit his slot receiver and lobbed a pass into traffic. Eley, lurking underneath the route, grabbed his second career interception off of Langan’s pass and returned it 39 yards to Rutgers’ 2-yard line, the longest interception return of his career.
The Terps were set up for an easy score, where running back Anthony McFarland Jr. punched in a score the following play to give Maryland a 26-7 lead.
2nd interception of career ✅— Lila Bromberg (@lilabbromberg) October 5, 2019
Longest interception return of career ✅
LB Ayinde Eley sets Maryland football up in the red zone. pic.twitter.com/aTcrzDTLdA
3. Special teams were eventful. Entering the matchup against Maryland, Rutgers kicker Justin Davidovicz was a perfect 5-5 on the season. However, the junior struggled Saturday against the Terps, finishing 0-2 on the day. Davidovicz’s first attempt of the day from 37 yards was blocked by defensive lineman Keiron Howard , and his second field goal attempt missed wide right.
The Terps also struggled with their field goal kicking unit. After running back Javon Leake scored his first of three touchdowns off of a 42-yard rush, Maryland place kicker Joseph Petrino’s extra point was blocked.
The kicking unit’s lapses returned near the end of the game when the Terps lined up for a 29-yard field goal to add on to their 41-point lead. However, Rutgers was able to establish leverage on the line and block his only field goal of the game.
“What we’ve got to do is figure out mentally where [Petrino] is. I know the first one was a block because it was low,” Locksley said. “The second one, I believe we allowed penetration through the B-gap, based off what we heard from our guys upstairs. And you can’t allow that to happen in the kicking game.”
But on Leake, along with scoring two touchdowns on offense, contributed a 100-yard kick return touchdown to start the second half, his second career kick return touchdown.
Even though the sun blinded the junior’s vision when the ball was in the air, causing him to muff the kick, Leake picked up the ball from Maryland’s own endzone and returned it up the right sideline for the score
He was shortly met with a big hug from Eley, who was one of the many teammates yelling “House call” to Leake prior to the second half kickoff.
“Every day in practice, every time we do a kick return rep, I tell him ‘I’ll meet you at home,’” Eley said. “So that was the one time — I told him one of them [are] going to break, and he has a chance to break any of them, really.
“So I just told him I was going to meet him at home, and that’s what we did,” Eley said.