LANDOVER, Md. — For the second straight year, Maryland football began its season with a wild upset win over No. 23 Texas. Once again, the Terps got out to a fast start and made enough plays to hold on for a 34-29 win.
There was a lot to take away from a game that included a freshman making history, a weather delay and three late turnovers. Here’s what stood out:
Jeshaun Jones looks like a stud.
The freshman had an impressive spring, and his first game was even better. On the first touch of his college career, he took a jet sweep to the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown. On his second, he hauled in a 65-yard touchdown pass, taunting a Longhorn defender as he high-stepped into the end zone. On his third, he threw a touchdown pass to Taivon Jacobs.
With that trifecta, he became the first wide receiver to throw, pass and run for a touchdown since Pharoah Cooper in 2014, the first freshman since Marcus Mariota in 2012, and the first player to do it against Texas since Joey Harrington in 2000.
Although he didn’t score a touchdown the other time he touched the ball, he looks to be a playmaker at a position where Maryland desperately needs one.
The defense came up big when it mattered most.
Maryland’s defense was the definition of bend but don’t break. It stonewalled Texas on the Longhorns first six drives, but didn’t have much of an answer once the Longhorns offense got into a groove. Texas gained just 60 yards on its first six drives, but then gained 155 on its last three heading into halftime.
Late in the game, though, the Terps defense made enough plays to seal the win, and then some. The offense faltered after the first two turnovers and the defense bailed them out again, with Antoine Brooks diving across the field for a game-saving interception. In a game between two evenly matched teams, those three turnovers were the difference.
Matt Canada’s offense had mixed results.
You couldn’t have drawn up a better start to the season for Maryland’s offense. The Terps went 67 yards in just six plays, with Jones capping off the drive with a 28-yard touchdown. They continued to gash Texas after that, using big plays and lots of receivers in motion to throw off the Longhorns defense.
But after Jones’ touchdown pass to Jacobs gave Maryland a 24-7 lead, the Terps gained just 40 yards on their next six possessions. Maryland had two excellent drives to retake the lead in the second half, but went back to struggling late. The Terps went three-and-out on both possessions following the turnovers, running six times for five yards.
Maryland struggled to run between the tackles as well, and finished with 143 rushing yards on 46 carries. At one point, the Terps’ wide receivers and quarterbacks had more rushing yards than their running backs. If Maryland wants to take a step forward in the Big Ten, that can’t happen.
Kasim Hill showed poise late.
A year after making big plays to finish off an upset win in Austin, the redshirt freshman did the same thing Saturday. After Texas took the lead on the previous possession, Hill drove Maryland to the Longhorn 38-yard line before he was sacked for a nine-yard loss on first down. That turned into a 3rd and 19, which Maryland converted thanks to a 13-yard catch by Darryl Jones on a third down and a 10-yard run by Hill on fourth down. Tayon Fleet-Davis scored three plays later, giving Maryland the lead for good.
Maryland’s next drive started at the eight-yard line, and Hill marched them down the field again with a key third down completion to Jahrvis Davenport and some help from two Texas penalties. Canada said after the game that Hill has an “it” factor, and it was on display in some of the games’ biggest moments.
With Derwin Gray out, Maryland shuffled its offensive line.
One of the biggest surprises on the Terps’ depth chart was the starting offensive line, including Brendan Moore switching over to right guard and starting over Terrance Davis. The Terps also had to shuffle at left tackle, where Gray was limited all afternoon.
Both are still recovering from offseason surgery, and Canada said postgame that Gray practiced all week but didn’t feel ready to play. Marcus Minor started the game at left tackle in his place, and Ellis McKennie saw time in a few series when Minor missed part of the game with a minor injury. The team has not announced a timetable for Gray or Davis’ return, so Maryland may continue to rotate in players on its offensive line in the coming weeks.