With just over nine minutes left in the second quarter, Howard’s defense simply couldn’t find a way to contain Maryland football’s offensive push.
The Terps pinned the Bison deep in their own end, which then turned into a short punt that sophomore defensive back Tarheeb Still returned 28 yards to Howard’s 11-yard line, an area of the field that Maryland was familiar with all evening.
Still’s strong return into the red zone prompted Maryland to strike once more against Howard’s leaky defense. Freshman running back Colby McDonald was the beneficiary this time around, and he took the first carry of his collegiate career all the way into the end zone to help Maryland to its fourth touchdown of the game.
The Terps were up 28-0 after McDonald’s rushing touchdown, and the freshman’s score was just an example of how Maryland dominated en route to a 62-0 win at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium on Saturday night.
“I thought, you know, our team for four quarters, regardless of who was in the game, maintained the intensity that we wanted to have and we talked about that going into the game,” head coach Michael Locksley said.
Maryland has now won its opening two games of the season, with the team’s first win coming against West Virginia in a six-point victory last week.
Right before kickoff, Maryland held a moment of silence to commemorate 20 years since the Sept. 11 attacks in remembrance of the lives lost.
After giving up just three points against West Virginia in the second half en route to a season-opening win, Maryland’s defense forced a Howard punt off a three-and-out just over a minute into the game.
The Terps’ offense then went right to work on their first possession of the game as redshirt senior running back Tayon Fleet-Davis and senior wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. combined for two big plays to put Maryland inside Howard territory. Junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa wasted no time putting his team on the board soon after and connected on a 14-yard touchdown over the middle of the field to Demus Jr. to put the Terps up 7-0 early in the opening quarter.
Demus Jr., who torched the Mountaineers last Saturday for 133 yards and a score, now has two touchdowns on the season and six consecutive games with a touchdown, which is the longest current streak by a Big Ten player.
Maryland stopped Howard’s offense for a second consecutive drive, which opened the door for the Terps to build on their early one-possession lead. Six plays and 37 yards later, Fleet-Davis turned the corner with blistering speed off a handoff from Tagovailoa and burst into the end zone from 17-yards out to give Maryland a 14-0 advantage with just under seven minutes left in the first quarter.
Howard finally got its stagnant offense moving in the right direction on the program’s fourth possession of the game, but a missed field goal with two and a half minutes left in the quarter maintained Maryland’s shutout for the time being. The defense surrendered just 50 yards to the Bison in one quarter of play.
The Terps came right back on the ensuing drive and a magnificent 42-yard leaping catch from Demus Jr. afforded Maryland another trip inside Howard territory. Senior tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo cashed in a few plays later from two yards out off a nice back-foot throw from Tagovailoa, which pushed Maryland ahead by 21 just under a minute into the second quarter.
Maryland’s offense wasn’t finished doing damage in the half, though.
Still had his notable 28-yard punt return deep into Howard’s territory, and McDonald capped off the quick drive with an 11-yard rushing touchdown on the ensuing play.
Another touchdown was on the horizon for the Terps in the same frame, and this time it was sophomore running back Peny Boone who jumped in on the action after a five-play, 45-yard drive. Boone took a handoff from Tagovailoa and immediately drove into the thick of Howard’s defensive line, but the sophomore plunged through for a four-yard rushing touchdown to bring Maryland’s advantage to 35.
“I was actually really pleased with the running back group,” sophomore defensive back Tarheeb Still said. “A lot of young guys that can show what they can do, so that was just a glimpse of what those guys can do.”
Maryland’s onslaught in the first half was reminiscent of the matchup with Howard back in 2019, when the Terps scored 56 points in the first half of a 79-0 victory in College Park. This time around, Locksley’s squad put up 38 points through 30 minutes of play.
Maryland opted to keep its starters out on the field for the start of the second half, which directly fed into more offense for the home side.
Sophomore wide receiver Rakim Jarrett joined in the offensive explosion four minutes into the third quarter as Tagovailoa released a dart into the hands of the streaking Jarrett, who raced into the end zone from 36-yards out for his second touchdown of the season to bring the score to 45-0 in favor of Maryland.
The backups entered the game soon after Jarrett’s touchdown, but it was more of the same from Maryland offensively.
Senior quarterback Reece Udinski tossed the first touchdown of his Maryland career on his first drive of the game with about seven minutes remaining in the third quarter to give the Terps 52 points.
By the time that Maryland had seven touchdowns on the night, Howard had just 91 total offensive yards at the end of the third frame.
A field goal off the foot of redshirt freshman Harrison Beattie on the first play of the fourth quarter made it 55-0.
“Always good when you get to play a lot of players, you know, for the development of our team, as we’re still in the growth phase it’s great to be able to play a lot of these young guys,” Locksley said.
Then, another freshman running back, Roman Hemby, charged into Howard’s end zone to cap off the win late in the fourth quarter.
“We got some really great running backs... they’re the best running backs I’ve ever seen,” sophomore offensive lineman Mason Lunsford said of the team’s ground game. “We’ve been working on it a lot in practice, it’s been one of our points of emphasis, trying to get the run game together.”
Three things to know
1. Chigoziem Okonkwo has been a positive factor through two games this season. Okonkwo had a two-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter and he now has two touchdowns in Maryland’s two games to kick off the season. The experienced tight end sat out last season due to medical reasons, but he’s come back in a huge way for the offense. He now has four catches for 22 yards in 2021. Keep in mind, in five games last season, Maryland’s tight ends managed just one whole catch.
2. Maryland’s starters took care of business against Howard in the first half. The first half saw Maryland’s offense explode against a fairly weak Howard defense. Tagovailoa led the way, going 17-for-22 in the opening two quarters and throwing for 179 yards and two touchdowns. It was once again the Demus Jr. show in College Park as he totaled 83 receiving yards and a touchdown in the first half.
“Let’s just say they make us better,” redshirt sophomore linebacker Deshawn Holt said of the team’s offense. “Honestly, I think we had eight guys score today, so great job. Our offense is amazing... they get us better everyday.”
The offensive line looked formidable, and more importantly, the defense did its job to put any upset hopes to bed. Howard had just 60 total first-half yards and 146 yards for the entire game.
3. Maryland improves to 2-0 and has more opportunities to increase its win total in the upcoming weeks. The Terps’ two wins in 2021 have come against two nonconference opponents in West Virginia and Howard. Looking ahead, Maryland can pick up some critical wins in the coming weeks. A road matchup with Illinois is on deck, and the Fighting Illini just suffered a 42-12 loss to Virginia earlier on Saturday. Then, Kent State is another home game on the schedule before the mighty Iowa Hawkeyes visit College Park. Realistically, Maryland can go 4-0 before facing its toughest opponent of the season to date, and it’s very important that the Terps take care of business over the next two weeks.
“We gotta put this game behind us pretty quickly and then we’ll start our preparation for Illinois tomorrow night,” Locksley said. “Excited about the opportunity to go back there with this team and have an opportunity to play on the road for the first time and again, continue to try to set, or create an identity for us.”