In its first road game of the 2022 season, Maryland football easily defeated Charlotte, 56-21. The Terps had an electric performance on offense, scoring on all but three drives to the tune of eight touchdowns. The defense also only allowed seven second-half points.
This upcoming Saturday, Maryland returns home for a night matchup against a very capable SMU team in what should be a energetic environment in College Park.
First, let’s take a look at how each of the Terps’ position groups played against the 49ers.
Taulia Tagovailoa had a dominant performance Saturday, racking up 391 yards and four touchdowns. The redshirt junior was clinical, especially in the first half, where he easily commanded the Terps’ offense to an early lead that proved to be insurmountable.
Tagovailoa was decent in the season opener against Buffalo but missed some opportunities that would have allowed the Terps to pull away more easily. Charlotte provided a far less intimidating opponent on the defensive side of the ball, and the Maryland offense exploded — as it should have. All game long, Tagovailoa hit his receivers from all distances, most notably launching two deep passes into the hands of Jacob Copeland over the 49ers’ safeties for touchdowns.
His one interception was slightly underthrown on an attempt to hit Dontay Demus near the pylon, but regardless he had arguably the best performance of his Maryland career against Charlotte.
Billy Edwards Jr. also saw some meaningful playing time once the game was well out of reach and Tagovailoa went down with a calf cramp. He proved himself as a worthy backup to Tagovailoa and looked comfortable running the offense.
For the second consecutive game to start the season, Maryland scored on a pair of long touchdown runs. Last week, Roman Hemby showcased his breakaway speed with touchdown runs of 33 and 70 yards, respectively. This week, Antwain Littleton II — who most considered a short-yardage back heading into the season — broke off a 59-yard rush for a score late in the first quarter.
Late in the third quarter, Colby McDonald ripped off a 49-yard touchdown run of his own. Through two games, three of Maryland’s four main running backs have found the end zone, and Ramon Brown is still a true freshman that will improve as he gathers more experience. While they all bring their own unique skill sets to the field, they have been more or less interchangeable so far — in a good way. They combined for 174 rushing yards Saturday.
If Tagovailoa plays close to his ability and the Terps’ running backs continue to produce at a high level, Maryland could put up huge numbers as the season goes on.
Last week against Buffalo, Maryland didn’t register a touchdown through the air. Against Charlotte, however, it was a different story, with wide receivers catching five touchdowns.
Jeshaun Jones and Jacob Copeland caught two touchdowns apiece against the 49ers. Jones has been the most consistent wideout for the Terps through two games this season and led the team Saturday with six receptions. Copeland led the team with 110 receiving yards and hauled in two deep balls from Tagovailoa after he found himself open in the end zone. Copeland got limited action against Buffalo in week one, but a week later showed why he was highly-touted coming into the season. If he continues to produce anywhere close to Saturday’s level, Maryland’s passing attack will be near unguardable.
Octavian Smith Jr. also caught his first touchdown as a Terp and should have a bright future with a program that has consistently developed elite talent at the wide receiver position.
Dontay Demus only got two catches, his second consecutive game with a less-than-impressive statline. The fact that he has been healthy for the team’s first two games is a miracle within itself, though, and his role should increase as he continues to recover.
Rakim Jarrett — last week’s leading receiver — caught three passes for just 21 yards, which in itself is a testament to Maryland’s depth.
The tight end position was relatively quiet against Charlotte, totaling just five catches for 46 yards between CJ Dippre and Corey Dyches. The duo — mostly Dippre — played a role in blocking as well and did a pretty good job, relatively speaking against a lesser defensive front from the 49ers.
As Maryland’s season goes on and the team has to face lethal defenses in the Big Ten, more will become clear about the Terps’ tight ends and their roles. As of now, it seems that the larger and less agile Dippre will handle the majority of blocking duties while the more receiver-like Dyches will take charge in the passing game.
Having two reliable options is never a bad thing, and both will continue to split time unless one becomes unavailable.
The Terps’ offensive line was solid against Charlotte, effectively blocking for an offense that put up 617 total yards of offense. Tagovailoa had plenty of time behind his offensive line, which generally has a pass-blocking-first skillset, allowing him to distribute the ball to his weapons comfortably. The team also totaled 193 yards on the ground, very much in part to the holes opened up by the men in the trenches.
Maryland’s offensive linemen were flagged for three penalties Saturday — two false starts and a hold. This is not just a problem on the offensive line, but drives can quickly fall apart if avoidable fouls are committed. Nonetheless, they have done a good job blocking for both the running backs and quarterbacks so far this season.
Maryland has had concerns through the offseason about its ability to rush the passer, and those concerns resurfaced in its second game. Last week against Buffalo, the Terps consistently created pressure and disrupted the passing game by forcing the quarterback to play outside the pocket. Against Charlotte, however, they struggled to generate meaningful pressure and allowed the 49ers to put up 292 passing yards while starting a third-string freshman quarterback.
The Terps managed just four quarterback hurries and one last-minute sack.
Maryland’s defensive line is solid against the rush and proved that against the 49ers, but it will need to improve against the pass this upcoming week against a talented SMU air attack.
Maryland’s linebackers were decent against Charlotte. Vandarius Cowan was flagged for a personal foul for unnecessary roughness after delivering a late hit to Charlotte’s quarterback, the most obvious mistake by a Terps linebacker Saturday. Other than that, though, the unit was solid, helping seal off the 49ers’ running game.
Ruben Hyppolite II led all linebackers with four tackles on the day. He has stepped into a leadership role this season — doing an satisfactory job handling himself at the position — but has yet to break out with a big performance.
Jaishawn Barham and Fa’Najae Gotay both showcased their athleticism with pass breakups. Barham continues to show his talent as a true freshman, while Gotay is a reliable, older player that can be effectively rotated into the game.
Through two games, the Terps’ linebackers have been better than last year’s injury-ridden group but are still looking to really make their mark in a game this season.
Facing a third-string quarterback that was making his first career collegiate start, Maryland’s secondary had an opportunity to shut down Charlotte’s passing attack and showcase its ability. Instead, the 49ers tallied nearly 300 passing yards and took advantage of mistakes by both the Terps’ defensive backs and safeties.
Maryland’s defensive backs broke up just two passes and were unable to slow down the 49ers’ receivers, allowing 113 yards after catches and three passing touchdowns. Penalties were not as big of a problem in the secondary, but Jakorian Bennett did get called for a pass interference penalty that extended a Charlotte drive. Mistakes like those will lead to SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai putting up huge numbers in week three.
All offseason, Maryland head coach Mike Locksley and his defense have preached their desire to force more turnovers than last season. Through two games, they have been unable to force a takeaway despite multiple chances to do so. There weren’t any egregious missed interceptions by the Terps’ secondary Saturday, but they need to create opportunities to force turnovers against a team of Charlotte’s caliber and an inexperienced quarterback.
The Terps were without Tarheeb Still because of a finger injury he suffered off the field before the game, but he should hopefully be back by the team’s matchup with SMU.
Maryland’s special teams had a quiet day against Charlotte, as the offense performed well enough to only require one punt by Colton Spangler, which was a solid 45-yard boot that rested at Charlotte’s 14-yard line.
Chad Ryland didn’t have an opportunity to kick a field goal but made all eight of his extra points. He also kicked all but two of his kickoffs into or out of the end zone for touchbacks, something that helps with field position and keeping players healthy.
Overall, the Terps’ special teams did what was asked of them Saturday.