Maryland football improved its record to 6-2 and became bowl eligible with a 31-24 win over Northwestern Saturday.
The Terps, quarterbacked by Billy Edwards Jr. in replacement of the injured Taulia Tagovailoa, head into their bye week off to the best eight-game start the program has had since 2010.
Let’s take a look at how each of Maryland’s position groups played against the Wildcats.
In his first career start, Billy Edwards Jr. had his moments but also let his inexperience shine through, especially early.
For much of the game, Edwards Jr. was too quick to leave the pocket and used his legs — an asset of his — far too often. Ironically enough, he had an opportunity in QUARTER to scramble for a touchdown and instead threw a pass across his body to a covered Corey Dyches that fell incomplete. He also missed a few players downfield on severely overthrown deep balls.
Still, Edwards Jr. made plays when he needed to. He completed 18 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown, and even though he may have taken off a few more times than were necessary, Edwards Jr. picked up 66 yards on the ground and had some impressive runs, especially a 32-yard rush that nearly sealed the game late in the fourth quarter.
Maryland will hope that Taulia Tagovailoa is ready to go for its next game, but Edwards Jr. earned himself another shot if he needs to be called upon again.
There’s still a quarter of the season remaining and the list of adjectives to describe what Roman Hemby means to the Terps’ offense is nearly exhausted.
Hemby had yet another explosive performance against Northwestern, putting the team on his back and rushing for 179 yards and three touchdowns. For the second straight week when the game was on the line late, Hemby had a game-winning touchdown run, this time a 75-yarder. He should be named Big Ten Freshman of the Week and has a good case for offensive player of the week as well.
Colby McDonald and Ramon Brown played too, but their roles were minimized due to Hemby’s effectiveness.
Antwain Littleton II didn’t play after hyperextending his knee in warmups, but head coach Mike Locksley mentioned after the game that it wasn’t serious. With the bye week arriving, Littleton II should be good to go against Wisconsin on Nov. 5.
It was a mostly uneventful day for the Terps’ wide receivers, only one of which had more than one reception. That player would be Rakim Jarrett, who led the team with eight catches for 82 yards and added a touchdown after a busted coverage left him open downfield.
Still, Jarrett had two drops, one on a screen pass and another on a beautiful pass by Edwards Jr. that would’ve required a diving catch but one that a player of Jarrett’s caliber should make nonetheless. Outside of Jarrett, wideouts were nowhere to be found in Maryland’s offense, totaling 24 yards between Jacob Copeland, Jeshaun Jones, Dontay Demus Jr. and Tai Felton.
Of course, playing with a backup quarterback makes things harder for the group, as Edwards Jr. doesn’t have the pocket presence or accuracy of Tagovailoa. But, one would still hope to see more production from the position group.
Unlike the week prior against Indiana, Maryland’s tight ends weren’t a huge part of the offense, at least in the passing game. Tagovailoa loves throwing to CJ Dippre and Corey Dyches; Edwards Jr. involved them to a noticeably lesser degree.
Dippre and Dyches had a combined three catches for 42 yards, 28 of which came on a first-quarter reception by Dyches.
The tandem was active blocking for the running backs, playing a role in their success. It was a decent performance by the two.
Maryland’s offensive line was very solid against Northwestern. Billy Edwards Jr. was sacked four times, but on more than one of those he held onto the ball a tad too long despite okay protection. For the most part, Edwards Jr. was given a clean pocket to pass out of.
The offensive line was phenomenal in the run game, opening up holes for Hemby to run through, consistently moving Northwestern players out of the way and allowing him to break into the second level.
There were three penalties called on the unit, two false starts and an unsportsmanlike conduct fall when Johari Branch did a cartwheel celebrating Hemby’s 75-yard touchdown. The false start penalties were frustrating, but Branch’s celebration wasn’t something egregious that should be flagged.
The Terps’ defensive line struggled to get to Northwestern quarterback Brendan Sullivan most of the game. While Sullivan wasn’t the most accurate passer, he was given ample time to work and managed to easily escape many pressures with his feet.
The unit wasn’t particularly effective at stopping the run, either. The Wildcats rushed for 215 yards, infrequently being stopped near the line of scrimmage. Most of the time, running back Evan Hull easily navigated his way through gaping holes. Northwestern has a very good offensive line, but it didn’t look like its opposition was up to the task Saturday.
Maryland was short handed across the field Saturday, but no position was quite as depleted as the linebackers. Jaishawn Barham, VanDarius Cowan and Ruben Hyppolite II were all ruled out because of injuries, effectively keeping three reliable starters out of the game.
The depleted group looked the part against Northwestern, especially against the run. Similar to the defensive line, the linebackers struggled to get leverage and move Northwestern blockers before the ball-carrier breezed by.
Linebackers didn’t do poorly rushing the passer, though, as their presence was a benefit against a strong Wildcats offensive line. Durell Nchami had a sack and Gereme Spraggins added a tackle for loss as well.
The Terps’ secondary has made big plays all season long and that was no different against Northwestern. Safety Dante Trader Jr. jumped a route and came away with an interception to start the second half, and fellow safety Beau Brade picked off a deep pass late in the fourth quarter to stunt a Northwestern comeback attempt. Brade and cornerback Jakorian Bennett also both had big tackles early in the final quarter to force a turnover on downs.
Maryland managed to make Sullivan relatively ineffective passing the ball, avoiding any big gains on all but one pass, a 46-yard completion in the first quarter.
The secondary was called for three pass interferences, but it’s hard to avoid that when in tight coverage and sometimes it can be a coin flip whether or not the flag gets thrown. It was a good overall showing from a blossoming unit led by Brade, who has emerged as Maryland’s best defensive player this the season.
Maryland’s special teams weren’t great against Northwestern.
The usually-reliable Chad Ryland went 1-for-2 on field goals, hitting a chip shot from 20 yards but missing from 46. He has struggled as of late.
Colton Spangler averaged 41 yards on his three punts with a long of 47. No Terps registered yardage on a punt return.
Kickoff returns were disappointing, as Octavian Smith Jr. only managed an average of eight yards per return and was swallowed up every time he returned a kick. As a result, Edwards Jr. and company were forced to start with subpar field position on multiple occasions.