In the revival of one of Maryland football’s most storied rivalries, the Terps came out incredibly flat against Virginia. A lack of energy, discipline and execution fed into an early 14-point hole. However, Maryland ramped up its performance as the game drew on, scoring 42 consecutive points.
The Terps defeated the Cavaliers, 42-14, in the 79th meeting between the two programs, but Maryland has still yet to put together a full 60 minutes of competence this season.
Maryland football faced off against Virginia under the Friday night lights and dominated, 42-14. In the fourth quarter alone, the Terps tallied three interceptions and three touchdowns.@keara_bruno has the video recap. pic.twitter.com/zm8BbOEwui— Testudo Times (@testudotimes) September 16, 2023
Here are three takeaways from Friday’s game.
Virginia had a chance, but threw it away
The score was knotted at 14 entering the second half, and each team had a legitimate opportunity to win a crucial game. Virginia, now 0-3, needed a confidence boost, while a loss for the Terps would’ve likely derailed their ambitious goals.
It was the Terps who took advantage of the clean slate.
After Maryland scored a touchdown in the third quarter, the Cavaliers marched down to the 12-yard line and faced a third-and-10. It was clear Virginia freshman quarterback Anthony Colandrea wanted the touchdown. Even when the pocket collapsed, Colandrea’s eyes stayed glued to his favorite target, Malik Washington, as he fired an ill-advised pass to the end zone.
Tarheeb Still, who read the play from the get-go, stayed patient and then pounced.
“In my mind, I’m thinking double-drive seven. That’s what they ran. Made a play on the ball,” Still said. “Not really trying to jump the play. Just playing it honest, and it worked to my advantage.”
Still’s interception was one of four turnovers the Terps forced in the second half, all on consecutive drives.
The defense stepped up when the game was in question, and the offense did its job, scoring touchdowns after each of the first three turnovers.
While Maryland certainly did not start the game on the front foot — the second game in a row doing so — it battled back yet again, flashing signs of what this team could become.
“It’s always good to be able to make corrections after a win. You know, I can tell you we’re still not playing our best football,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “We’re gonna build off this and get ready for conference play.”
Penalties were prevalent
Much of Maryland’s offense was hindered early on, in large part due to penalties. The offense was flagged only three times for 25 yards on Friday night, but the most notable penalty came in the first quarter.
Corey Bullock was called for holding after a 21-yard rush from Roman Hemby, so instead of a first-and-10 at Virginia’s 12-yard line, the Terps faced a first-and-20 from the 43-yard line, which ultimately resulted in a missed field goal.
The defense was also flagged four times for 55 yards, one of which erased a third-down sack and gave Virginia a fresh set of downs.
Luckily for Maryland, the Cavaliers were sloppy as well, committing seven penalties.
Maryland took a season-high seven penalties against Virginia, reminiscent of its lack of discipline last season.
Locksley benched Antwain Littleton II against Charlotte following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, so it will be interesting to see how the Terps respond against Michigan State.
Plenty of explosive plays
What the offense lacked in consistency, it made up for with explosive plays. The Terps had seven plays that went for more than 20 yards, with many coming in times of need.
Kaden Prather picked up a career-long 43-yard reception, and a 23-yarder. He continues to establish himself as Maryland’s most explosive receiver, averaging more than 20 yards per reception.
Tai Felton, Corey Dyches, Preston Howard and Colby McDonald were also involved in big plays, but none bigger than Jeshaun Jones’ 64-yard touchdown. As Taulia Tagovailoa escaped the pocket, Jones churned up the sideline and tracked down the ball, turning back to look at the dusted defender as he crossed into the end zone.
“Once we all get on the same page, it’s kind of hard to stop us,” Jones said. “[The defense] can’t really focus on one guy, and if they do focus too much on [someone], you’re putting somebody in a bad situation.”
However, the most important play of the game came on special teams. When the Terps needed life, freshman Braeden Wisloski was the defibrillator, returning a kickoff for a 98-yard touchdown, the first Maryland kickoff return for a touchdown since 2019.
“The kid has tremendous speed, tremendous heart, and I was glad to see him finish it and make a play,” Locksley said. “I think it jumpstarted us as a team.”