After Maryland football’s 79-0 victory over Howard to kick off the Mike Locksley era in College Park, there were still questions as to whether a blowout win over an FCS team was enough to evaluate a budding program.
Those queries were answered and then some following a 63-20 beatdown of No. 21 Syracuse, which set a program record for the most points over a ranked team. While the Terps were small favorites in this bout, nobody could have expected the dominant showing that took place on Saturday afternoon at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the win.
Josh Jackson is in command of this offense
Coming in as a transfer under a new coaching staff, there wasn’t a lot of familiarity for quarterback Josh Jackson with Maryland’s offensive system when he arrived on campus. He had a hot start to his Terps career against the Bison, but against Syracuse, he was going to face his first real test.
He passed with flying colors from the very beginning.
“I mean we had a great first drive — we’re really clicking,” Jackson said. “It’s obviously not [just] for me to get on a great start, it’s for the offense to get on a great start.”
Jackson lit up the field all day long. Aside from an interception in the third quarter, he was terrific. The redshirt junior completed 21 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns, and had the Terps not been in the midst of a blowout in the second half, he likely would have padded onto those totals.
The running backs were ferocious
Maryland’s rushing attack dominated all day long, racking up 354 yards on the ground. That also included a hearty 120 yards in the first half alone, when the game was still somewhat competitive. And while Anthony McFarland Jr. is the leader and No. 1 option in the backfield, it was a group effort against the Orange.
McFarland led the way with 14 carries, racking up 77 yards and three total touchdowns — including a receiving score. But despite his heavy workload, he actually finished third in yardage. Javon Leake used a 64-yard touchdown to break out for a seven-carry, 107-yard, two-score performance. Jake Funk finished with 95 yards — 92 of which came on the penultimate Maryland drive — and a touchdown on just five carries. And Tayon Fleet-Davis carried the ball seven times in a row on the game-icing drive, finishing with 68 yards on 11 carries while adding a touchdown.
“We all want everybody to eat,” McFarland said. “I want everybody to eat. At the end of the day, you have an unselfish group. We’re able to do a lot of things in that room and I feel like we did that today.”
That’s a testament to the offensive line, which paved the way for big gains from start to finish. One of the biggest concerns entering Saturday’s game was the ability to neutralize Syracuse’s vaunted defensive line, but the rotation up front that saw linemen being subbed in an out took care of business. The tight end duo of Tyler Mabry and Chigoziem Okonkwo also helped the running backs find space, and the former is proud of his contributions in that facet.
“I like to show that I can catch the ball and run-block,” Mabry said after the game. “It just puts me in the best position for the next level.”
When it mattered most, the defense didn’t break
While Maryland’s defense was gashed through the air against Syracuse — Tommy DeVito threw for 330 yards and scored three touchdowns with his arm — the group held strong in pivotal moments.
“Our defense did a really good job,” Locksley said. “We gave up some explosive plays, which you don’t like to see. But when you play the type of defense we play, you’re going to give up some plays, and it’s just how you respond. ... And then to finish the game the way our defense finished it in the fourth quarter was good to see.”
Down by four scores at the end of the third quarter, the Orange offense found itself in Maryland territory looking to cut into the deficit. Following Andre Cisco’s interception, Syracuse had the ball at Maryland’s 26-yard line. Three plays later, it went for it on fourth down and turned the ball over on downs.
On the two subsequent Syracuse drives, the Terps held strong on fourth downs once again to take the wind out of the Orange’s sails.
It wasn’t as dominant a performance from the defense as it was against Howard — it held the Bison to just 68 yards of total offense — but combined with the turnovers and timely stops, it was a very similar result for Maryland.
“We were familiar with what they were doing scheme-wise and we just made plays,” linebacker Keandre Jones said. “It’s up to us to play our part and do our job and create takeaways and make sure that we’re making plays too.