Maryland football had just beaten No. 21 Syracuse 63-20 in dominant fashion. The Terps had set numerous program records, including the most points (63) that the team has ever scored on a ranked opponent.
The weekend before, the team trampled Howard for a 79-0 victory. Saturday’s game marked the first time in program history with at least 56 points scored in consecutive games.
But instead of celebrating and ravishing in the breakthrough moment for the program, coach Mike Locksley’s team continues to remain focused on its growth in preparation for what lies ahead, which includes a road meeting with the Temple Owls this weekend.
“I mean it was a good win, but we still got a lot of stuff we got to improve on. We still got to get better,” running back Anthony McFarland Jr. said after Saturday’s game. “I’m not satisfied. So I know, guys in the locker room with me are not satisfied. And that’s how we’re going to proceed.”
Locksley said the team would get to enjoy the win for 24 hours, but after that the focus is solely on the road game ahead, which he sees as a big test for his team. Especially since the Owls upset the Terps last season.
“I don’t think you’ll see us running around high fiving and and celebrating this win other than for the next 24 hours,” Locksley said. “And then it goes back to recharging and resetting to neutral. And then you start the process of how we prepare for an opponent.
“I’ve been around here for 10 years and we’ve played Temple quite a bit, and they’ve been dogfights. And you know, our expectation is that we’re going to get their best and that it’ll be a tough, hard nosed game.”
For a lot of teams, a span of the last two weeks would be an opportunity to get complacent and cocky.
After putting together a 5-7 record last season, where there was a lot more than football on the minds of the players, Maryland broke into the new season and the Locksley era with the shutout of the Bison on Aug. 31, only allowing a total of 68 yards while racking up 623 of its own.
And as if that wasn’t enough to put to college football world on notice, the Terps picked up an upset victory over the Orange this past weekend. Now they sit at the No. 21 spot in the country and fourth in total offense with 636.5 yards per game. The team also ranks sixth in the nation in rushing yards allowed and eighth in third down conversion percentage.
But this Maryland team, especially a Nick Saban-trained Locksley, acknowledges that there are still a few areas that need improvement. The Terps drew five penalties for 30 yards during the game against Syracuse, which included an offsides penalty on the opening kickoff.
“Those are the things that makes me, kind of makes my skin crawl when we get these dumb penalties,” Locksley said. “And, for us, to be the team we need to be, we have got to play with great discipline. You know, discipline and winning go hand-in-hand.”
Despite putting up 63 points this past weekend, the Terps struggled coming out of halftime with a 42-13 lead. After attaining 19 first downs in the first half, Maryland’s offense moved the chains only four more times in the third quarter.
The Terps also suffered their first turnover of the season when quarterback Josh Jackson tried to force a throw to wide receiver DJ Turner in the third quarter. It was intercepted by Syracuse defensive back Andre Cisco — an error that Jackson understands he cannot make.
“I felt like I got flushed out. They were in their drop eight look and DJ was open, and I threw it,” Jackson said. “I’ve got to give him an even better ball.”
With two wins under their belt, the Terps are in a similar situation as they were in the past two seasons. Both times, Maryland entered the season 2-0 with wins over ranked opponents, No. 21 Syracuse this year and ranked Texas teams in 2017 and 2018. However, the Terps appear to be enjoying this season a little more, recognizing that this year is has a new feel under Locksley.
“I just feel like the culture is different around here,” running back Javon Leake said. “Coach [Locksley] did a good job of coming in and really having us buy into what he wants to do with us.”
Following the win against the Orange Saturday, Maryland tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo backed Leake’s statement on Sunday with one of his own on Twitter.
I haven’t been this excited to play football every week and go to war and put my life on the line with my brothers every week!! Something very special is about happen around here!! #GoTerps— cнιgozιeм oĸonĸwo (@ChigTweets) September 8, 2019
When a team is averaging 71 points per game and is undefeated, there aren’t many areas that stand out as need of improvement. And though the team will acknowledge that they are far from a finished product based on their two dominant performances, the Terps understand that something special is brewing for the program.
“This Maryland is not the same Maryland, that’s what I feel like,” Leake said. “We’re a good team, it’s going to be hard to beat us, and we’ve just got to keep this momentum going.”