Maryland football defeated Towson, 38-6, in its first game of the 2023 season.
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa commanded the offense with an impressive showing of 260 passing yards and three passing touchdowns, as well as a rushing score. While there were certainly moments where the Terps’ talent advantage shone through, there were also plenty of instances that things weren’t clicking — not unusual for the first game of a season.
Maryland football dominated in its season opener against Towson, 38-6. Corey Dyches earned a career-high 108 yards, and Taulia Tagovailoa became Maryland’s first quarterback to surpass 8,000 passing yards.@keara_bruno has the video recap from Saturday. pic.twitter.com/n9rRmn9FW8— Testudo Times (@testudotimes) September 3, 2023
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s game.
Offensive line questions not going away
Questions circled around Maryland’s offensive line as they came onto the field for their first time this season. The unit was no doubt the team’s biggest source of doubt, with mostly new faces leading it.
Unfortunately for the Terps, their front did not answer many of those questions. Although he was able to put up impressive numbers, Tagovailoa was faced with frequent pressures, especially in the second quarter. Towson is the weakest opponent on Maryland’s schedule, and the fact that its pocket shrunk may be a harbinger of more serious struggles in the trenches when the schedule heats up.
Maryland started with an offensive line of Delmar Glaze at left tackle, Corey Bullock at left tackle, Mike Purcell at center, Amelio Moran at right guard and Conor Fagan at right tackle. Fagan was the replacement for an injured Gottlieb Ayedze, who is expected to step into that role once he returns. Perhaps Ayedze’s return could provide some relief, but overall, Maryland did not perform on the offensive line the way it hoped it would against the outmatched Tigers.
“We’re trying to figure out the best five, so you know, we’re mixing and matching,” Locksley said.
Corey Dyches separated himself from the pack
Tagovailoa looked most frequently to tight end Corey Dyches, who broke in his new No. 2 jersey with the most productive game of his college career. Dyches totaled a team-high six receptions, a career-high 108 yards and found the end zone midway through the first quarter for a score.
Maryland had four tight ends earn meaningful playing time: Dyches, Preston Howard, Rico Walker and Dylan Wade. Howard, Walker and Wade all made their collegiate debuts but didn’t record a reception — that was left up to Dyches. Walker did catch a pass in the end zone, but the play was called back due to a penalty.
“I’m not a selfish guy, so as long as we clicking for real — whether it’s the ball in my hands, or it goes to another wide receiver or tight end, as long as we clicking, I’m good,” Dyches said.
Dyches’ first-week performance, while against an opponent not to par with any of the Terps’ future foes, showed what many in the program have believed — that he can be among the best tight ends in the Big Ten. His athleticism and pass-catching ability is undeniable, and his presence essentially provides Maryland with an extra-physical wide receiver on the field, akin to the impact Chigoziem Okonkwo made before heading to the NFL.
Maryland’s defense did what it should — keep Towson out of the end zone
Maryland’s offense had its ups and downs, but for the most part Maryland’s defense shut the Tigers down.
Towson had 276 yards, which isn’t a complete dud of a performance against higher-level competition, but failed to make inroads when it counted. The Tigers entered the red zone just twice and only converted once with a field goal, kept out of the end zone all game. They also only converted five of 15 third downs and one of three fourth downs they went for.
“I liked the way we held them and contained them without giving up big plays,” Locksley said. “... When we needed to stop them, we got the necessary stops.”
The Terps’ pressure was also constant, and while Towson quarterback Nathan Kent made it tough with his mobility, they recorded two sacks and came close to a few more. That, coupled with virtually no threat being presented to the secondary and a solid showing from the linebacking corps, gives reason for optimism that Maryland’s defensive improvement last year can continue in 2023.
The only real room for improvement from the defense would be to force a turnover — and it nearly did before a near-fumble was ruled an incompletion — but those are usually somewhat opportunistic, and Towson didn’t put many balls in harm’s way. Maryland definitely has room to grow on the defensive side of the ball, but it should be pleased with the way it went about its business Saturday.