Maryland football picked up a win its season opener against Buffalo at home, 31-10. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but the Terps handled an inferior opponent on both sides of the ball.
Maryland’s offense had a big game from its running back crew, including redshirt freshman running back Roman Hemby, who rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Antwain Littleton II, also a redshirt freshman, scored two touchdowns as well.
However, Maryland was not efficient on third down, only converting four out of 13 third downs. That led to the Terps running less plays than they want to, which they hope to improve on this weekend.
“The goal for us is to try to get to 80 plays, and the more efficient we are and the faster we play the better chance we have of meeting that goal,” head coach Mike Locksley said.
Now, Maryland shifts its focus to a week two matchup on the road against Charlotte. A nonconference game against an opponent of Charlotte’s status is usually played at the Power 5 school’s campus, but this game has been on the schedule before Locksley was hired, so the Terps are forced to make an early-season road trip.
The game will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. and will not be broadcast on national television. It can be streamed on Stadium.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Maryland is a 27-point favorite and -5000 on the moneyline. The over/under is 65.5 total points.
Charlotte 49ers (0-2)
2021 record: 5-7 (3-5 Conference USA)
Head coach Will Healy has been with the program since 2018 and has had mixed results in his short tenure with the team. Healy was the National FCS Coach of the Year in 2017, leading to his hire by an FBS program. In his first season at the helm, Healy led the 49ers to a winning record and their most wins in program history.
Since then, Charlotte has cratered. Last season, the 49ers finished with a 5-7 overall record and finished second-to-last in the East Division of Conference USA. Charlotte is relatively new to the FBS, as they just joined the top level of college football in 2015.
Charlotte is not expected to be any better this season — they are listed as one of the worst teams in the FBS by multiple media outlets. Charlotte is already 0-2 to start the season, with one of those losses coming to an FCS opponent in William & Mary.
Players to know
Shadrick Byrd, redshirt sophomore running back, No. 13 — Byrd is Charlotte’s lead back and gets the bulk of the carries for the team. In two games, he’s rushed 27 times for a total of 100 yards. The Alabama native hasn't put up monster numbers yet this season but still poses a threat out of the backfield. With uncertainty for the 49ers at the quarterback position, they will likely have a run-heavy offensive attack. Byrd also returns kicks.
Grant DuBose, junior wide receiver, No. 14 — DuBose is Charlotte’s leading receiver through two games. He has eight receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns. At six-foot-three, DuBose has a solid frame which allows him to make plays for the 49ers. Charlotte has a balanced receiving corps across its offense, but DuBose has the most explosive play-making ability on the team.
Wayne Jones, redshirt junior defensive back, No. 5 — Jones has been all over the field for Charlotte in its first two games of the season. He leads the team in tackles with 17 and is the lead cornerback in the 49ers’ secondary. He will draw a difficult matchup on Saturday when he is forced to line up against one of Maryland’s elite receivers, but regardless, he is someone Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa needs to keep an eye on.
Xavier Williams, redshirt freshman quarterback, No. 8 — Charlotte’s quarterback situation is murky heading into its third game of the season. Redshirt senior Chris Reynolds started the first game, but suffered an upper body injury and did not play in the second. Williams took over in game two and threw for 201 yards on 23 attempts and rushed for two touchdowns. Williams’ status for this week is unclear, so Maryland is preparing for both quarterbacks.
“We’ve seen both quarterbacks so we have an idea what we think their strengths and weaknesses are,” Locksley said. “These two quarterbacks are a lot more similar than they are different.”
Red zone offense. It’s hard to find too many strengths on a team that has performed poorly on both sides of the ball this season. But, if there is one, it’s Charlotte’s ability to convert in the red zone. It may not get there too frequently, but when the 49ers get in the red area, they put points on the board. They are 4-for-4 on red zone attempts, with three of those scores coming in the form of touchdowns.
The secondary. Charlotte’s defense as a whole has struggled mightily through two games this season. While the entire defense has holes, the weakest part is the secondary. Charlotte has given up 84 total points in its first two games of the season and has allowed 520 passing yards. The 49ers fail to get consistent stops, so it’s going to be a long day against a Maryland offense that has explosive potential.
Three things to watch
1. Will Maryland clean up its discipline issue? Maryland committed the second-most penalties in the Big Ten last season. That was a major problem against some of the best teams in the conference. Heading into this season, the expectation was that the discipline of the team would improve given the plethora of returning starters and veterans on both sides of the ball. However, in the first game of the season against Buffalo, Maryland committed eight penalties. It didn’t matter because Maryland was superior, but it is a major area of concern Maryland needs to make strides in and it should start this week against Charlotte.
2. How will Taulia Tagovailoa perform? Week one against Buffalo wasn't the best performance Tagovailoa has had in a Maryland uniform. While he wasn't bad — throwing for 290 yards — he appeared out-of-rhythm and off-target on many throws, including his lone interception on a ball that flew over his target’s head. Whether it was first game jitters or just getting comfortable with his receivers in a new season, Tagovailoa needs to be more accurate moving forward. Against a weak Charlotte secondary, Tagovailoa could be in for a monster day.
“Obviously I don't like throwing picks, but [I’m] always trying to bounce back from it. You know, I think after you make a mistake you’re just so anxious to get back on the field and make up for it, so that’s something I’ve got to continue to work on,” Tagovailoa said.
3. Can Maryland start to create turnovers? Despite a dominant win, Maryland lost the turnover battle in week one against Buffalo, 1-0. Creating turnovers has been something Locksley and the entire defensive unit have discussed as an area they want to make a leap in this season. Creating turnovers will be paramount to the Terps’ success this season. Defensive back Jakorian Bennett is one of the best cornerbacks in coverage in the entire conference, but he often fails to turn his pass breakups into turnovers. Against Buffalo, a ball slipped through his hands that could have been returned for a touchdown. While Locksley said he isn't worried about Maryland creating turnovers in the future, he recognizes its importance for the Terps.
“It’s something we’ve been stressing from last season on. We study the turnover margin quite a bit,” Locksley said. “Between big plays and the turnover margin, we feel those are the two most important things. If you want to come away successful on Saturday, you’ve got to win in those areas.”
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