For the first time since 2001, Maryland football is 5-0.
Head coach Mike Locksley has preached all season about the Terps playing to the “Maryland standard” and putting forth their best effort for a full 60 minutes. Locksley’s wish was granted Saturday, as Maryland played its most complete game of the season en route to a dominant 44-17 win over Indiana (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) at SECU Stadium.
“Started fast, finished strong, playing to our standard, and usually if you play to your standard you usually end up with the win,” Locksley said. “This was a great opportunity to create some momentum and have confidence going into a tough place to play against a really talented team [Ohio State].”
The Terps scored in every quarter and did not surrender a touchdown through the first three quarters.
Taulia Tagovailoa finished the game with 352 passing yards and five passing touchdowns — the first time a Terp has passed for five touchdowns in a game since Scott Milanovich did so in 1994. He also rushed for a score in the first quarter.
For the second consecutive game, Maryland jumped out to a 21-3 lead, with its first three touchdown drives taking a combined one minute and 16 seconds as a result of big plays and prime field position.
Maryland began its rout with a 62-yard catch-and-run from Jeshaun Jones, followed by a 13-yard touchdown reception by Tai Felton — one of his career-high three on the day. The series moved Tagovailoa past 9,000 career passing yards and Jones past 1,500 career receiving yards.
Maryland’s defense also started strong, forcing three consecutive three-and-outs following Indiana’s first-drive field goal.
The first-quarter domination allowed the Terps to cruise through the final 45 minutes of play.
Felton found the end zone once again in the second quarter with under a minute remaining, which was followed by a missed extra point from kicker Jack Howes.
After missing 1-of-3 field goal attempts last week, Locksley eased concerns Tuesday, attributing Howes poor performance to a lower body injury. However, the missed extra point reignites the question of whether Howes can be the kicker Maryland needs, despite nailing a 44-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Felton continued to impress in the second half, hauling in a 46-yard reception, which led to freshman Dylan Wade’s first catch and touchdown as a Terp.
Indiana’s first touchdown — an 11-yard completion to Donaven McCulley — came with 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and was immediately followed by Tagovailoa’s fifth touchdown pass of the day.
The Terps will travel to Ohio State next Saturday in what will be one of the most important games for Maryland in recent memory.
“When Locks was recruiting me he kind of had a blueprint for how my years here were gonna go,” Felton said, “So, he said we were gonna kind of keep winning as we keep going. So, kind of seeing that come to fruition is very exciting ... But we know that it’s not a five-game season.”
Three things to know
1. Felton adds another dimension to Maryland’s offense. Felton entered Saturday’s contest without a touchdown to his name this season yet became the first player in Maryland history to total three receiving touchdowns in a first half. He finished the contest with seven receptions for 134 yards.
“I think as coaches we think more highly of Tai then sometimes I think he does of himself,” Locksley said. “I’m hoping today kind of jump-starts him [and] that becomes the standard for him.”
After a shaky start to the season — in which he dropped multiple balls against Towson, including a sure-fire touchdown — Felton established himself as one of Maryland’s top three receivers, next to Jones and Kaden Prather.
2. Tagovailoa avoided mistakes. Indiana ranks near the top of the Big Ten in multiple defensive metrics, including interceptions. Tagovailoa went 24-for-34 through the air Saturday without throwing an interception against the toughest defense he’s faced this year.
3. Maryland’s defense imposed its will. In a game that seemed out of reach after 12 minutes, the Terps’ defense refused to let up. Maryland surrendered 321 total yards and recorded its eighth interception of the season, which ranks second in the Big Ten.