Maryland football has done it.
The Terps have defeated a ranked opponent at Maryland Stadium for the first time 2010, when it defeated a Russell Wilson-led No. 21 NC State.
Nine years and nine College Park losses to ranked opponents later, Maryland defeated No. 21 Syracuse, 63-20 — the most points the program has ever scored on a ranked team. The Mike Locksley era is off to as good a start as one could hope for, with the team winning its second consecutive game this season with at least 63 points scored in each — the first time in program history Maryland has scored at least 56 points in back-to-back games.
“This Maryland is not the same Maryland, that’s what I feel like,” running back Javon Leake said. “We’re a good team, it’s going to be hard to beat us.”
The Terps netted 652 yards on offense, an average of eight per play, while surrendering 400 to the Orange. Quarterback Josh Jackson completed 21-of-38 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns, his only mistake being an interception in the third quarter.
The Orange’s stout defense was a big concern for Maryland heading into the game, but once the clock started ticking, any doubts about the Terps’ offense faded away. Around six minutes into the first quarter, the Terps were up 14-0 — it took them over two more minutes to do the same against Howard.
“We had a great start,” Jackson said. “The looks that they gave us, we knew how we anted to execute against them. ... Everything was there that we wanted, so it really was a great way to start the game.”
After the defense forced a three-and-out, Jackson and his offense got to work quickly. On second-and-goal with his blockers holding back the Orange pass rush, Jackson fired a perfectly-placed pass to tight end Tyler Mabry in the right side of the end zone for a touchdown. The 67-yard drive took just five plays and lasted 97 seconds to put the Terps up 7-0.
Just over a minute later, linebacker Keandre Jones caught Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito trying to escape the pocket and pounced on him from behind, knocking the ball out of his hands. Fellow linebacker Ayinde Eley picked up the fumble, putting Maryland’s offense back in control in great field position. Soon enough, running back Anthony McFarland Jr. burst his way into the end zone.
By halftime, Maryland led 42-13. The Orange defense had no answer for the Terps to start the game, allowing them to convert the first five third downs and keep drives alive.
Linebacker Shaq Smith didn’t play in the contest, restricted to the sidelines with a groin injury that wasn’t previously announced. The Maryland defense still managed to cause a ton of trouble without the Clemson transfer though, committing two takeaways, forcing three turnovers on downs and racking up four sacks on the day.
Both takeaways ended in touchdowns for Maryland. In addition to the touchdown following the fumble recovery, a first career interception from safety Jordan Mosley put the Terps in prime position. On the second play following the takeaway, McFarland easily ran 20 yards for a touchdown to put Maryland up 28-7 in the second quarter.
After seeing limited action against Howard in Week 1 but still scoring two touchdowns, McFarland took a lot more snaps Saturday for a three-touchdown, 75-yard performance. In doing so, he became the first Maryland running back with two rushing touchdowns in two consecutive games since Brandon Ross in 2015.
Leake also had a big performance for the running back group, finishing with two touchdowns and 107 yards on seven rushing attempts. Towards the start of the third quarter on second-and-10, he bolted past the outstretched arms of a Syracuse defender and ran 64 yards into the end zone to extend Maryland’s lead to 49-13, simply faster than any defender trying to get in his way.
Though the Maryland offense wasn't as efficient in the second half with Syracuse more tuned into its game plan, it still managed to score three touchdowns by way of running backs Leake, Tayon Fleet-Davis and Jake Funk. And the Terps defense never really allowed the Orange back in the game with the chance to take down a ranked opponent.
“To finish the game the way our defense finished it in the fourth quarter was good to see,” Locksley said. “What a great opportunity to play a ranked team here at home and come out with a win like we did today. I’m really proud of our guys.”
Three things to know
1. Tight ends continue to play a bigger role. In both games this season, the position has had a big impact. Tyler Mabry became the first Maryland tight end to score touchdowns in two consecutive games since Dan Gronkowski in 2008 after picking up one against Syracuse, with a touchdown and 22 yards on the day.
Okonkwo had a big game too, averaging 15 yards on seven targets. He had 45 yards by the time the clock ticked zero.
2. While the defense was able to force some turnovers, it struggled on pass coverage. The Terps were able to lock down the Orange on the run game, only allowing 70 yards, but gave up 330 receiving yards. DeVito completed 28 of his 39 passes and Maryland gave up three passes of at least 30 yards.
3. Maryland executed on third down situations. The team completed 11 of the 15 third downs it faced on the afternoon. Most of the time though, the Terps moved the ball down the field before a third down was needed.