The Maryland Terrapins have a chance to do something that they have not done since 2016: start the season 4-0. As for another first for the program, the Terps will face the Kent State Golden Flashes. The Terps used a combination of a late rally and a game winning field goal by Joseph Petrino to sneak past an upset-minded Illinois team. The win was far from pretty, with penalties and sloppy play galore. The win, albeit an ugly one, sets up the Terps perfectly to remain undefeated going into conference play. First things first, though, Kent State is still lurking and looking to pull a huge upset.
Kent State Scouting Report:
On paper, this matchup is nothing spectacular. It is a meeting between a team from the Power 5 and a Group of 5 team that should result in an easy victory by the former. However, below the surface, the game might be a battle. Kent State has a 1-2 record. However, those two losses were both against top 10 teams in Texas A&M and Iowa, respectively. It is hardly fair to judge a Group of 5 team based on their performance against teams of that stature, but the Golden Flashes kept both games close for a while before their opponent pulled away.
That being said, the Golden Flashes might have one of the most high powered offenses in the country. That includes everyone in the Power 5. The Golden Flashes put up an astonishing 49.8 PPG last season. Coach Sean Lewis inherited a team in the midst of a horrific stretch of seasons. After going a paltry 2-10 in 2018, the team has improved to a bowl game that saw them win their first postseason game in program history. In 2020, they went 3-1, but were ineligible to compete in the postseason due to a lack of games played (four games were played before the last two were cancelled).
For the Golden Flashes, there are weapons upon weapons. Quarterback Dustin Crum is the QB prospect that no one talks about on a national level. He has a cannon of an arm and runs the KSU offense perfectly. Many NFL Draft analysts rave about his skillset and say that he has the potential to make an impact if drafted into the right environment. Others are not quite as enthralled with him as they claim that the ultra-spread offense that has been nicknamed the “Flash Fast” scheme will not translate to the next level. They rely on quick throws and lots of speed on the perimeter. Lewis and Crum both force defenses to commit to the pass before utilizing a zone running scheme as well.
Kent State is certainly not afraid to get into a shootout with an opponent. In their bowl game win in 2019, they beat Utah State in the Frisco Bowl by a score of 51-41. To be frank: their offense gets on the board early and often. A lot of that is due to Crum and his main running backs, Marquez Cooper and Xavier Williams, both of whom are from Maryland. They are both electric and used in the same manner that the Cleveland Browns utilize Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. On the other hand, the “Flash Fast” offense would be nothing without their offensive line in the trenches. They return all five starters from a year ago. A group that was 16th best in all of college football all returning is so rare, yet so crucial for Kent State.
The biggest factor in many of their games, though, is the defense. For Kent State to come even remotely close to their full potential, their defense will have to step up. This can be further exemplified in a game in 2020 against Buffalo. The final score was in favor of the Bulls, 70-41. Yes, Buffalo scored 70 points. That is 10 touchdowns. When an offense hangs 41 on another team, there are few instances where that team loses the game. This is not one of those instances. For Kent State to be competitive not only in this game, but during the course of the season, their defense will have to put the clamps down on the opposition.
Terps Trending Up:
Since achieving a 3-0 record Friday night, Maryland has been able to sit back and watch a lot of ranked teams, or teams receiving votes, lose. The Terps now have accumulated 29 votes in the AP Poll, a mere 98 votes below #25 Kansas State. The recognition is great, but Maryland is not content with being a footnote on the poll. For Maryland, this is a trajectory that is continuing to move upwards. The tilt with Kent State is not one that should end their undefeated season. However, the Terps should be wary of not falling into a trap game. Maryland nearly did that against Illinois, sleepwalking through the first three plus quarters of the game before pulling out the win.
Maryland relied heavily on their overall roster talent in Champaign. Dontay Demus might get a lot of the headlines for his performance, all of which is deserved. However, players like Darryl Jones, Jeshaun Jones, and Isaiah Jacobs all gave Maryland a huge boost. Taulia Tagovailoa was slowed down for a little while by the Illinois defense, but found a way for the win.
The Maryland offense was effective when necessary, but the defense really kept them in the game while the offense figured out how to solve the Illinois defense. Jakorian Bennett, Nick Cross, and Tarheeb Still all helped slow down the Illinois passing game for just about the entire game. The effort was even more impressive considering one of the touchdowns for the Illini was an offensive scoop and score after Maryland forced a fumble.
Everything is pointing towards Maryland being undefeated entering the gauntlet that awaits them in the Big Ten. It might be easy for fans, players, and coaches to look ahead to the matchup against Iowa next week. However, Maryland must take care of business against a high powered Kent State offense. This game might not be anything special on paper, but it has all the ingredients to be quite the affair. So far, this season has been tons of fun for Maryland, and they look to continue that against Kent State on Saturday.
Venue: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium
Time: 3:30 PM EST
Network: Big Ten Network