With about seven minutes to go in the third quarter, Maryland football was up 30-9 against Kent State. Led by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the Terps’ offense was marching down the field again.
After passing the ball four yards to running back Isaiah Jacobs, Tagovailoa was just a few yards shy of hitting the 300 passing yard mark. A few moments later, Tagovailoa found Jacobs yet again on the right side, putting the quarterback at 307 passing yards just two and a half quarters into the matchup.
Tagovailoa finished the game with 384 passing yards, marking the fourth time in his career he threw for 300 or more yards in a game. The first time in his career was against Minnesota and he’s done it two other times this season against West Virginia and Illinois. Four career 300-yard passing games moved Tagovailoa up to the No. 3 spot in program history where he is tied with Chris Turner and John Kaleo.
Led by the junior quarterback, Maryland coasted to a 37-26 victory over Kent State to advance to 4-0 on the season.
“Our quarterback really showed command,” head coach Michael Locksley said. “I thought our quarterback, obviously throwing for over 300 yards for the third, fourth game... however many games it is, is playing on a high level.”
Maryland’s offense started off slow and could not convert a third down on its opening drive after struggling on third down against Illinois last week.
Although Kent State showed off its running game with six rush attempts for 15 yards on its first drive, Maryland’s defense held strong, forcing them to punt.
However, on the first play of Maryland’s next drive, Tagovailoa targeted wide receiver Rakim Jarrett. The ball went through Jarrett’s hands and to a Kent State defender, marking Tagovailoa’s first interception of the season. The Golden Flashes started their drive on Maryland’s 40-yard line. Despite good field position, the Terps defense did its job holding them to a field goal attempt.
After the initial score, Tagovailoa and the rest of Maryland’s offense responded. In three plays, the quarterback moved the Terps 59 yards in just over a minute.
The junior quarterback completed two passes to open the drive- one for six yards to wide receiver Jeshaun Jones and one to running back Tayon Fleet-Davis for 20 yards. Tagovailoa then stepped back, looked to his left and fired the ball to wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. who caught it on Kent State’s 20-yard line and accelerated into the end zone to put the Terps up 7-3.
Demus Jr.’s receiving touchdown marked his 13th in his career moving him up to No. 6 in the Maryland record books. Demus Jr. is now tied with Darrius Heyward-Bey and Guilian Gary.
“It gives me confidence to keep going day in and day out,” Demus Jr, said. “Knowing that the hard work is paying off.”
Kent State responded with a drive of its own. A 40-yard pass from quarterback Dustin Crum plus a Greg Rose unnecessary roughness penalty landed Kent State deep into Maryland territory. However, pass breakups from defensive backs Tarheeb Still and Kenny Bennett on second and third down, respectively, held the Golden Flashes to three.
Right as the first quarter was winding down, Tagovailoa moved the Terps down the field 70 yards to close out the first quarter, passing for 119 yards and completing 10 of his 12 attempted passes.
On the first snap of the second quarter, Tagovailoa stepped back and lofted the football six yards into the end zone to Jarrett who made the leaping catch for the touchdown. With kicker Joseph Petrino’s successful extra point, the Terps went up 14-6 to start the second quarter.
The Golden Flashes could not respond as Maryland’s defense held strong and forced them to punt.
Tagovailoa wasted no time on the ensuing drive. On the first play of the drive, the quarterback found Demus Jr. in stride, completing the 64-yard pass to the wide receiver who was tackled out of bounds on Kent State’s 10-yard line. Tagovailoa then handed the ball off to Fleet-Davis on back-to-back plays.
On the second handoff, Fleet-Davis rushed into the end zone for three yards to cap off the 74-yard drive. With the extra point, the Terps extended their lead to 21-6.
As Kent State looked to respond, it could not turn its yardage into points as Maryland’s defense stifled it forcing the Golden Flashes to turnover the ball. After the ball was bobbled around, Still scooped it up and gained control before stepping out of bounds at Maryland’s 26-yard line.
The Terps could not convert and punted the ball away.
After Maryland’s defense once again stopped the Golden Flashes on third down, Kent State tried a fake field goal attempt. Kicker Andrew Glass ran the ball in for the touchdown. however, a holding call on Kent State brought the ball back on fourth down forcing Glass to attempt a 37-yard field goal.
The kick was good as Kent State closed Maryland’s lead slightly with about five minutes to go in the first half, 21-9.
To close out the first half, Maryland took the ball down the field 69 yards and settled for a field goal as it went into the locker room at halftime up, 24-9.
Although Kent State received the ball to open the second half, Maryland’s defense would not allow the Golden Flashes to see any light to start the half, forcing Kent State to punt.
Maryland’s offense then got to work with a 60-yard five-play drive. To close it out, Tagovailoa handed the ball off to Fleet-Davis who ran 29 yards into the end zone for his second score of the day. Petrino missed the extra point but the Terps extended their lead, 30-9.
A sack on third down by linebacker Durell Nchami forced Kent State to give up the ball again and on the next drive, Tagovailoa hit the 300-yard mark with his back-to-back passes to Jacobs.
Later in the drive, Tagovailoa found tight end Corey Dyches for the 9-yard pass who ran it into the end zone to put the Terps up, 37-9.
With about ten minutes remaining Kent State moved the ball down the field 80 yards and ended it with a touchdown to close the score to 37-16. However, it proved not to be enough as Maryland’s offensive explosion early on in the game and its defense held the Golden Flashes to no field goal attempts or punts up until that touchdown.
“We could have played better,” Locksley said. “But winning is hard. It’s hard to win games in this league.”
Three things to know
1. The Terps receiving corps is deep. At the end of the first half, Tagovailoa had thrown to nine different receivers for 265 yards. Demus Jr., Jeshaun Jones, Fleet-Davis and Darryl Jones led the way in the first half with three receptions. Demus Jr. led the receiving corps with 102 yards, one touchdown and four targets in the first half. Behind him, Jeshaun Jones with 52 yards and five targets. Maryland finished the game with 12 different receivers grabbing a catch marking the first time the Terps had done this since they did it with 11 against Indiana on Nov. 7, 2015.
“It says to me that we’ve got a lot of confidence in the players that we have here in the receiver room,” Locksley said. “So it’s great to have that type of depth.”
2. Maryland’s defense, although strong at times, continues to struggle with discipline issues. Maryland also had six defensive penalties for 85 yards. Defensive lineman Greg Rose had an unnecessary roughness penalty while Anthony Booker Jr. had a roughing the passer penalty. Kenny Bennett had both a pass interference and a holding call against him. Corey Coley Jr. and Still also had a pass interference called on them.
“We just felt like there’s a lot more that could have been done,” defensive lineman Sam Okuayinonu said. “We had a lot of penalties we need to clean up, a lot of pre-snap stuff that we got to clean up and get back to the drawing board. But we definitely have taken a big step for sure.”
3. Maryland football is 4-0 for the first time since 2016. Maryland football has not seen a record like this since it defeated Howard, FIU, UCF and Purdue five years ago. That season, the Terps went on to go 6-7 and qualified for a bowl game. Maryland ultimately fell to Boston College in the Quick Lane Bowl, 36-30.