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Grading Maryland football’s positions after its win over Howard

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The Terps played a weaker opponent in the Bison and just about every positional group benefited.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Howard at Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Maryland football took care of business against Howard in College Park.

Head coach Michael Locksley’s energized squad trounced the Bison at home and walked away with a dominant 62-0 win to improve to 2-0 on the 2021 season.

Maryland has now taken down West Virginia and Howard to kick off the season, and it has favorable matchups with Illinois and Kent State on deck when looking at the upcoming schedule.

It’s certainly hard to find any faults in Maryland’s overall game coming off a 62-point win in which it failed to concede a single point to Howard, but now it’s time to take an in-depth look at each position group to see how they did during the second week of the season.

Quarterback

Building off his 332-yard, three-touchdown performance in the 30-24 win over West Virginia back on Sept. 4, junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa continued to impress against Howard, albeit the Bison being a much weaker opponent than the Mountaineers. It couldn’t have gotten much better for Tagovailoa, who played until the early stages of the third quarter. He went 22-for 27, good enough for an 81.5% pass completion percentage, and he tossed three touchdowns.

And once again, an encouraging trend that can be seen with Tagovailoa is his growth in the turnover margin. For the second straight week, Maryland’s starting quarterback didn’t commit a turnover, which was something that he struggled with last season (seven interceptions in four games in 2020). Overall, it was another very positive week for Tagovailoa with a matchup with Illinois coming up.

It’s also worth mentioning that senior Reece Udinski got some playing time, along with junior Eric Najarian, but it was Udinski who got the second-most amount of quarterback work against the Bison. Udinski had just five pass attempts but connected on all of them for a total of 73 yards and a touchdown.

Grade: A+

Running back

There were a significant amount of Maryland drives that started inside Howard’s territory after the Terps’ defense pushed back the Bison deep into their own end on numerous occasions. That kind of head start on each offensive drive benefitted the program’s running backs, as the game script flowed directly into the backfield’s favor and it showed.

Maryland finished with a whopping 49 rushes compared to just 32 pass attempts on the night. It was a more the merrier mindset for the ground game as six different running backs on the Terps’ roster received at least three carries. Redshirt senior Tayon Fleet-Davis assumed his starting role for the second straight week and took eight carries for a team-high 66 yards (8.3 yards per carry) to go along with a touchdown.

But with the game getting out of hand early, the Terps got to show off its abundant running back depth. Freshmen running backs Roman Hemby, Antwain Littleton II, Colby McDonald all received touches and made the most out of their chances. Hemby and McDonald both scored their first collegiate touchdowns, while Littleton produced 29 yards on eight carries. The running back corps handled the majority of the offensive work against Howard and the Bison simply couldn’t find a way to stop anyone.

Grade: A

Wide receiver

It was just another day at the office for Maryland’s plethora of talented wideouts. Right at the top, senior wide Dontay Demus Jr. and sophomore Rakim Jarrett rolled out another strong performance against Howard after aiding Maryland to a win in the opening week. Demus Jr. is solidifying himself as one of the best wide receivers in the Big Ten after racking up six catches for a game-high 128 yards and one touchdown, with a long reception of 42 yards. He now sits atop the Big Ten in receiving yards per game with an average of 130.5 on six receptions per contest.

Jarrett is another one of Maryland’s deadly weapons and he quietly had another solid game as well. The sophomore finished second on the team with 67 receiving yards and one touchdown. Jarrett is seventh in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game with a 94.5 average.

There weren't many mistakes from Maryland’s wide receiver corps as a whole against Howard and it was the second straight successful performance for Tagovailoa’s weapons.

Grade: A

Tight end

Maryland featured two tight ends on Saturday, senior starter Chigoziem Okonkwo and sophomore Corey Dyches. Okonkwo got his second straight start, and even though he didn’t have the most impressive stat-line, he did enough to help spread Maryland’s offense out in the red zone. He caught a two-yard pass in the end zone from Tagovailoa, his only catch of the game, to give the Terps their third touchdown of the night. That makes it two touchdowns in two games for Okonkwo, and if he’s able to transform into a consistent red-zone threat, Maryland’s offense will surely become even more dangerous than it is.

Dyches also chipped in with his first few catches of the season when the starters came out. He totaled three catches on three targets for 30 yards and showed off his agility on a 19-yard gain.

There wasn’t much more the program’s tight ends could’ve done, as any touchdown from the tight end group should be deemed as a weekly success due to the massive target share going to the team’s top wideouts.

Grade: B+

Offensive line

Maryland’s offensive line has quietly been one of the program’s most efficient positions over the first two games of the season. The Terps’ front five followed up their strong performance against the Mountaineers with another brilliant showing, this time against the Bison. The offensive line conceded just one sack all game as Tagovailoa made a solid effort to get rid of the ball quickly while he was in the pocket. But, pass protection aside, it was how the offensive line aided the running game that made the big difference when Howard came to town. As a team, Maryland averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 49 total attempts. It was a run-heavy game for the Terps overall, and they were able to pull away because the ground game was consistent.

Grade: A

Defensive line

The Terps’ defensive line did a stellar job limiting the Bison’s ground game efforts. Howard had a total of 19 rush attempts for 66 yards, which turns out to be an average of just 3.5 yards per carry. The Bison weren’t able to find any kind of room against Maryland’s defensive front.

Junior Greg Rose, senior Ami Finau, senior Lawtez Rogers and graduate student Sam Okuayinonu assumed the starting roles on the defensive line in this one. Okuayinonu had the biggest impact, totaling two tackles (both solo) and one sack. It was a game in which the defensive line simply had to hold its ground, and it did just that against Howard.

Grade: A

Linebacker

Similar to the starters on the offensive side of the ball, Maryland’s linebackers shifted throughout the game and there were a fair amount of players getting time on the field in the second half. Despite playing the backups for a significant period of time, the linebackers were a big reason as to why Howard struggled on third downs. The Bison had 11 third down attempts and failed to convert a single one all game.

Freshman Branden Jennings had a team-high four solo tackles and one tackle for loss, while redshirt sophomore Deshawn Holt, junior Ahmad McCullough and sophomore Osito Smith each had three tackles apiece. Once again, this was another position that didn't make many, if any, mistakes and Howard couldn’t manage a point as a result.

Grade: A+

Secondary

When a program wins by 62 points and surrenders just 80 total passing yards, it’s hard to find any faults in the secondary. Howard rolled out three quarterbacks over the course of the game and they combined for 12-of-30 passing for 80 yards and one interception. To say the least, it was a dominant performance from the team’s defensive backs. Maryland had a chance to exhibit its depth on the defensive end, and as a result, there were many players that took reps in the secondary.

Freshman Dante Trader and sophomore Tarheeb Still led the way, totaling four and three tackles, respectively. One of Maryland’s defensive studs from the opening week, senior Jakorian Bennett, chipped in with an interception and a pass break up. Senior Kenny Bennett also had a pass breakup of his own. It was a flawless day for the secondary and Howard was no match for the Terps’ defensive backs.

Grade: A+

Special teams

Maryland’s special teams will get an average grade for the week simply because they didn’t get a chance to make much of an impact against Howard. The Terps punted on just two occasions, averaged 36 yards per punt, and attempted a total of three field goals. Senior kicker Joseph Petrino went 1-for-2 on field goals, hitting from 38 and missing from 45 yards out. Redshirt freshman Harrison Beattie even got a shot on the field goal unit and knocked in a try from 34 yards away in the fourth quarter.

Grade: B