Maryland football fans looked up at the scoreboard midway through the first quarter with an eerie sense of déjà vu. Maryland was down against an inferior opponent, 14-0, before many fans even got to their seats.
But just as they did against Charlotte the week prior, the Terps locked in after a multitude of self-inflicted wounds, and shut down the Cavaliers the rest of the way out.
A 98-yard kick return touchdown, four forced turnovers and 42 points later, Maryland closed out its nonconference slate with a comfortable 42-14 victory against former ACC rival Virginia.
Here’s how each position group performed in the victory.
Taulia Tagovailoa was back to his old self Friday, following an up-and-down start against Charlotte. His decision-making improved, he evaded defenders when forced outside the pocket and had some NFL-caliber throws — highlighted by his 64-yard touchdown pass to Jeshaun Jones.
Tagovailoa finished with 342 yards and a touchdown, but even more importantly, he did not make any terribly ill-advised plays.
Coming off a career-best performance, it looked like Roman Hemby was primed for a huge game against a Virginia rush defense that ranks amongst the worst in the country. But he struggled to generate many big plays on the ground. What he did not do big-play wise, though, he made up for on the score sheet, walking in two touchdowns.
The real star was Colby McDonald, who rushed for 75 yards on just 10 carries. While he has ranked below Antwan Littleton II on the depth chart, it would not be surprising if McDonald slowly takes on a bigger role.
The running back unit did not have to do the heavy lifting, but it found the end zone four times.
As mentioned above, the running backs were credited with the touchdowns, but the receivers often got the Terps into scoring territory. Four receivers had at least 25 yards, with Jones’ touchdown changing the tide of the game.
Jones and Kaden Prather combined for over 150 yards in a clean game from the entire receiving corps.
The most athletic play of the game came from freshman Preston Howard, who electrified the bench early in the fourth quarter. Taking a ball in stride, he leaped over a Virginia defender in what ended up being a 33-yard gain. Despite that being his only catch, it’s encouraging to see his potential.
Corey Dyches once again led the way with 56 yards on four catches.
The offensive line has gotten better every game this season. The return to near-full participation from Gottileb Ayedze on the right side has clearly helped, with Delmar Glaze continuing to solidify the left.
Tagovailoa was forced into fewer pressures than the previous two games, but did find himself scrambling on numerous occasions.
The most questioned unit’s strides are encouraging, especially in short-down situations, but next week’s game at Michigan State should tell a lot.
Jokingly speaking, Donnell Brown is making a case to be put on the hands team, with two interceptions in as many games. But genuinely, he’s made two big plays in big moments for Maryland this year.
Elsewhere on the defensive line, Jordan Phillips led the group with four tackles, and the unit collectively shut down Virginia’s rushing attack, allowing just 91 yards. Nineteen of those came via scrambles from freshman quarterback Anthony Colandrea.
As was a common theme of the entire defense, Colandrea’s ability on the move allowed him to make plays all over the middle of the field early. But in the second half, the linebackers adjusted to clear out the seam.
Schematically, the unit improved throughout, and Ruben Hyppolite II led all Terps with six tackles.
Any time a secondary picks off the opposing quarterback three times in a six-minute span, especially without its top safety — Beau Brade was ruled out before the game — the unit should receive a high grade.
Provided the two interceptions in the fourth quarter from Tarheeb Still — one coming in the end zone to prevent the Cavaliers from tying the game — Colandrea tore up the Terps for close to 45 minutes. The freshman had almost 250 yards on 22 of 30 passing with a touchdown.
The Terps’ secondary needs to do a better job with quarterbacks who like to throw on the run, but that was covered up by the clutch takeaways.
There is a legitimate case to be made that if not for Braeden Wisloski’s 98-yard kick return for a touchdown, which came at the perfect time for Maryland, the result of this game could have been a lot different. It was an impressive first game as a return man for the true freshman, coming up with the play of the game.
Jack Howes’ lone field goal attempt, from 55 yards out, came up just short.