Maryland football started off firing on all cylinders — racking up 21 points in the opening 15 minutes — and held that lead throughout in a resounding 38-6 win over Towson.
The Terps have now won three straight season openers, and Saturday’s win over the Tigers represented the largest margin of victory during that span.
Despite that, the Terps weren’t as sharp as they would have liked after a hot start. The last time they faced off against Towson in 2017, they won 61-17. With a much better roster on paper, Maryland looked sloppy at times in its first game of the 2023 season.
The Terps began their 2023 campaign to the delight of the fans in SECU Stadium, as they rode an efficient drive down the field that was capped off by a 23-yard scamper into the end zone by Taulia Tagovailoa. The following drive resulted in a 23-yard touchdown by Corey Dyches. Dyches thrived throughout, finishing with six catches for 108 yards and one touchdown.
Dyches credited the new offensive scheme for his success Saturday, saying, “It’s a lot more flexible offense.”
“We got off to the fast start that we like to get off to, scoring 21 points in the first quarter,” head coach Mike Locksley said.
Maryland could’ve made it three touchdowns in a row, but a rusty play, a common theme of Saturday’s contest, plagued the Terps. Tai Felton found himself wide open for a potential 80-yard touchdown on the opening play of the second drive, but the ball fell through his hands.
Taking a 21-3 lead into the second quarter, the Terps failed to replicate their strong opening quarter, with a seven-minute and forty-second drive resulting in a missed 45-yard field goal by first-time starter Jack Howes. Senior Evan Johnson later took over kicking duties in the fourth quarter, nailing a 24-yarder.
Maryland’s defense unsurprisingly was up to the task all game long, though, limiting the Tigers to just a field goal in the first half. It briefly looked as if the Terps forced their first turnover of the season when the Tigers, who crossed the 40-yard line just once in the half, lost the ball, but a would-be forced fumble by defensive lineman Quashon Fuller was overturned after review.
“We didn’t get the turnovers, but when our defense needed to get stops, we got the necessary stops,” Locksley added.
While the defense held its own, surrendering just 276 total yards and six points, there was an eye-opening struggle for the Terps with the most talked about position group.
The Terps racked up 28 points in the opening 30 minutes — and 38 points overall — but the offensive line, which was without presumed starter Gottlieb Ayedze, allowed Towson’s almost entirely rebuilt defense to force pressure on Tagovailoa.
“We’re trying to figure out the best five and so you know, we’re mixing and matching,” Locksley said. “... We’ll get a chance to evaluate the tape and see which which group played the best together to take the next step next week.”
Even so, Maryland showcased its rushing attack in the second half, with Roman Hemby and Antwain Littleton II carrying the load. The duo totaled 22 carries for 95 yards and Hemby scored a touchdown.
The Terps were able to extend the bench as they got out to a 29-point lead late in the third quarter, with Billy Edwards Jr. relieving Tagovailoa, who finished the game with 260 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air. Redshirt freshman Cam Edge finished the game under center.
Three things to know
1. Questions remain on the offensive line. If Tagovailoa found himself under this much pressure against an FCS opponent, the Terps will be in deep trouble when the difficulty of their schedule increases. Towson recorded two quarterback hurries while the game stayed competitive, and Tagovailoa had to take off the same number of times. There were also some mental mistakes made, with an ineligible receiver downfield penalty negating freshman Rico Walker’s first career touchdown.
2. Dyches shined. Following the departure of C.J. Dippre to Alabama, it was clear that Dyches was primed for an important role this season as the Terps’ far and away top tight end. He showcased that Saturday, setting a career high with 108 yards.
3. Despite the scoreline, it wasn’t an inspiring performance by the Terps. There aren’t often many criticisms of a 32-point win, but poor play from the offensive front, a lack of big plays from the defense and multiple dropped passes will need to be cleaned up in the coming games if Maryland wants to reach its potential this season.
“Obviously, there’s always things we need to get cleaned up, which is which is what we’ll do,” said Locksley.