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Maryland football vs. Howard preview

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The Terps will look to get off to a 2-0 start this season.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

Maryland football will look to capture its second win of the season when the Howard Bison make the short drive to College Park for a Saturday night kickoff at 7:30 p.m.

Maryland came away with a statement win in its opener against West Virginia last Saturday. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was terrific, carrying the offense for 332 yards passing and three touchdowns with the help of his stud wide receivers in Dontay Demus Jr. and Rakim Jarrett.

The Terps defense also held strong in the upset win, forcing four turnovers to hand the ball back to the offense. Now, Maryland will look to build on a strong start against a less notable opponent in Howard.

“The most important game is the next game,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “The goal for us is to not necessarily worry about who we play, but to practice and hold up to the type of standards that we set during the week.”

The last time Howard came to College Park was Mike Locksley’s first game as the Maryland head coach in 2019. The Terps put an absolute beatdown on the Bison, dismantling them in every way possible en route to a 79-0 victory. While that margin of victory is hard to come by regardless of the talent discrepancy, the Terps will likely score early and often that will allow them to build a stable lead.

The game will be played on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and Maryland will wear special helmet decals designed by the players that commemorate the 20 years since the attacks.

The game will air the Big Ten Network.

Howard Bison (0-1)

2020 season: (0-2)

Head coach Larry Scott is in his second year at the helm and looking to turn around a struggling Howard program. Last year was a forgettable season for the Bison as they only played two games due to COVID-19 affecting their schedule. In Scott’s first normal season as the head man, he’ll attempt to bring relevancy to the program with a wealth of collegiate coaching experience that includes stints as an assistant in Florida, Tennessee and Miami.

Howard participates in the mid-eastern athletic conference in the FCS. In its opener, the Bison lost handily to Richmond, 38-14. Howard struggled to move the ball all game as Richmond racked up points, resulting in a season-opening loss. The Bison will have an even greater challenge to avenge their week one loss when they travel to College Park on Saturday night.

Players to know

Quinton Williams, junior quarterback, 6’4, 183 pounds, No. 6 — Williams is an experienced passer and a bright spot for Howard’s offense. Williams has a solid arm and is able to see the field and hit a hoist of targets for the Bison. In the opener last week, Williams threw for 226 yards on 27 attempts. He completed 17 of those passes, including one touchdown. Six of William's passes went for over 15 yards against Richmond.

Jarett Hunter, sophomore running back, 5’10, 187 pounds, No. 22 — Hunter had a productive day against Richmond, rushing for 93 yards on 12 attempts, including a rush that went for 30 yards. Hunter averaged 7.75 yards per carry on the ground and also caught three passes for 35 yards last week. Hunter is one of the top playmakers for Howard and will certainly be at the top of Maryland’s scouting report.

Ray Williams, junior defensive back, 5’10, 183 pounds, No. 7 — Williams is one of the top defensive backs on the Bison roster and is all over the field on Saturdays. Against Richmond, he had a team-high seven tackles, five of which were solo. Tagovailoa will certainly keep his eyes peeled for Williams on Saturday night.

“They do have some nice players,” cornerback Tarheeb Still said about Howard’s offense. “They have a nice quarterback, some good receivers, some good playmakers so we just have to execute the game plan that the coaches gave to us.”

Strength

Playmaking and wide receiver depth. Williams likes to distribute the wealth in the passing game and he has a host of options to throw too. Nine receivers caught a pass in the opener and five caught multiple passes. Receivers Christion Carter and Antoine Murray are two of William's top targets in the passing game. Hunter is also a threat to catch passes out of the backfield.

Weakness

Third downs. Howard was inconsistent moving the chains in their opener and that was in large part due to their inability to convert third downs. The Bison went just 1-11 on third down against Richmond. That abysmal conversion percentage on third down will make it incredibly difficult to score against a Maryland defense that impressed in week one.

Three things to watch

1. What will the balance in the running and passing game be? With Tagovailoa’s development and the spectacular wide receiver room Maryland has, everyone expected the Terps to be a pass-heavy offense. However, that wasn't the case in week one as 44 of the 80 total plays ran were on the ground. There is not a ton of experience in the running back room, but it appears senior back Tayon Fleet-Davis has emerged as the top option. It will be interesting to see how the split between running and throwing the ball plays out against Howard and the rest of the season.

“We’re putting together game plans on offense, defense, special teams that kind of give us the best opportunity to win,” Locksley said. “It could be running it 50, 60 times and throwing it 20, or it could be vice versa.”

2. How will Maryland’s bench perform? While no game in college football is a cakewalk, it would be a shock to just about everybody if Maryland fails to win this game handily. If the Terps are able to fulfill or exceed, expectations, it is likely they will play much of their bench when they have a comfortable lead. Guys who may not typically have the opportunity to shine on Saturdays should get a good amount of reps. That could include backup quarterback Reese Udinski, who transferred from VMI and tore his ACL this past spring. Despite the injury, all indications are he is healthy and ready to go if need be.

3. How will the special teams unit perform? The weakest phase of Maryland’s win over West Virginia was the special teams. While kicker Joseph Petrino had a solid outing going 3-4 from field goals, the kick-return unit was horrible. They let up two monster returns that put the Mountaineers in scoring position, which could have proved costly later in the game. Granted, it was the first week of the season. But it will be noteworthy to see how this unit responds against Howard and the rest of the way.