Maryland football’s scoring onslaught started early and never really seemed to stop against Howard on Saturday.
On a 1st-and-10 from Howard’s 26-yard line early in the first quarter, Maryland had an empty backfield. Quarterback Josh Jackson had five pass-catchers split out wide, allowing the transfer signal caller to isolate a mismatch.
He did just that, finding an open Dontay Demus Jr. over the middle of the field. The throw was a bit behind the sophomore wide receiver, but he was able to shed a tackle and outrun the defense for a 26-yard touchdown. That score gave the Terps a 7-0 lead at the 11:06 mark of the first quarter. Less than 18 minutes of game time later, they had a 42-point advantage on the scoreboard.
By the end of the first half, the Terps had a 56-0 lead. Mike Locksley’s team continued to pour on the pressure, eventually taking a 79-0 victory over the Bison — the program’s first shutout since 2013.
“The touchdowns are cool and everything, but I was just glad that we could go out and get a victory for our first game,” Jackson said. “The way we did it, 79 points is pretty awesome. That’s awesome for Coach Locksley and our team, so it was good to get back out there.”
The Demus Jr. touchdown was followed by an Anthony McFarland Jr. two-yard rushing score at the 6:43 mark. On the very next drive, sophomore tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo hauled in a four-yard pass to put Maryland up 21-0 with 3:16 remaining in the opening quarter of action. Less than two minutes later, McFarland punched in his second touchdown of the game from six yards out.
Creating space for its playmakers is a staple of a Locksley offense, and that’s exactly what offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery showcased in the season opener. In the first half alone, Jackson completed 15-of-22 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns, finding seven different receivers and spreading the wealth around.
And it wasn’t just Jackson. With the game out of hand early, Maryland handed the reins to Tyrrell Pigrome for a couple series in the second quarter and let him play for the start of the second half. He had zero difficulty finding a rhythm, threading a beautiful pass to Demus for a 62-yard score midway through the second quarter. In his first drive of the third period, he corralled an errant snap and took care of things himself, scampering for a 22-yard rushing touchdown to give Maryland a 63-0 lead. Tyler DeSue and Lance LeGendre also found their way into the game, with the former rushing for a touchdown as well.
Against an FCS opponent like Howard, the talent disparity can be large and it’s hard to get a true evaluation of how well each side played. But the Terps played well from top to bottom, as all three facets of the team excelled.
Thanks to Maryland’s penchant for scoring quickly, Howard had 11 first-half drives. The Bison gained just 68 net yards on the day, including a stunning negative four on the ground. Transfers Keandre Jones, Shaq Smith each registered at least one sack, adding to the Terps’ team total of eight. Caylin Newton, who was named the 2019 MEAC Preseason Player of the Year, was under attack all day long and quickly forced out of the contest.
“Both those guys are high motor, high effort, guys,” Locksley said. “They’ve improved our defense just with their presence and the habits and behaviors that they have. I mean, these guys show up to work, you know, Tuesday, Wednesdays are big practice days, and they go 100 miles per hour. They’re guys that do things the right way off the field, they take great care of their bodies, and their impact has been very meaningful on our team.”
The Terps defense didn’t force a turnover, but they did the next-best thing. Of Howard’s 11 first-half drives, 10 resulted in punts, nine of which were on three-and-out drives — the Bison gained just one first down on a defensive pass interference penalty and punted three plays later. On the day, the Bison totaled just four first downs and punted a whopping 14 times, struggling to find a groove at any point in the game.
“We just wanted to dominate,” junior defensive lineman Sam Okuayinonu said. “That’s in all phases: coverage, hitting, dominating their offensive line. We just went out there and did what we have to do to accomplish the goal.”
Special teams sometimes goes unnoticed, but on Saturday, the third unit was on full display. It all started when Bison punter Isaiah Moore dropped a snap and was trucked by Nick Cross for a turnover on downs at Howard’s 13-yard line — that led to McFarland’s first score. Then midway through the second quarter, wide receiver DJ Turner fielded a punt at the Bison 40, found a path along the left sideline and took it for a return touchdown. And with just over 10 minutes to go in the third quarter, true freshman Lavonte Gater broke through and blocked Moore’s punt for a safety.
It was the prototypical all-around team effort, and now with a win in their pocket, the Terps will turn to a top-25 team in Syracuse. Saturday’s game against the Orange is slated to start at noon ET and the game can be watched on ESPN2.
“We were going to maximize every opportunity we had during the course of the game,” Locksley said. “We’ll celebrate it for 24 hours, we’ll get back in here on Monday and we’ll start putting together a game plan for Syracuse.”
Three things to know
- The Terps took care of business. Playing in the Big Ten East, Maryland football has a daunting schedule each year. This season is no different, with the nonconference slate having a top-25 team in Syracuse and an underrated Temple program coming up in the next couple weeks. This game against Howard was the only ‘guaranteed’ victory on the schedule, and the Terps did exactly what they needed to do — win and leave no doubt.
- Josh Jackson was as advertised. Stats against an FCS team must be taken with a grain of salt, but if one thing is certain, it’s that Jackson’s Maryland debut was nearly perfect. The Virginia Tech transfer completed 15-of-24 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Terps to 42 points on just eight drives.
- The defense was electric. While the offense padded the highlight reel, the defense was a key in the Terps’ ability to score at will. Six Maryland drives began in Howard territory due to the constant three-and-outs forced. That led to 28 points, allowing Mike Locksley’s debut as full-time head coach to begin without a hitch.