On a crisp Saturday evening in College Park, Maryland used a balanced attack on offense to down Kent State to move to 4-0 on the season. The win itself was more or less unexciting as Maryland led virtually the entire game, but the overall strength of the team was put on full display. After Kent State drove down the field to kick a field goal on their first drive, Maryland took complete control of the affair and swiftly took care of the Golden Flashes. Moreover, this win puts the Terps in a tremendous position heading into their next game against undefeated Big Ten foe, Iowa. Iowa is currently ranked as the #5 team in the country, and pending the next AP Poll, they will be the first ranked team that Maryland faces.
Taulia and the Offense Continue to Soar:
In the months leading up to the season, the biggest concern was about Taulia Tagovailoa and how he adapts to Dan Enos’ offensive system. The former Cincinnati offensive coordinator took on the same role for the Terps, and has looked great with play calling. Tagovailoa has taken a massive leap from a mediocre passer to a bonafide stud under center. He looks every bit as polished as the offensive staff reported in camp. The Terps are a very strong team holistically speaking, but for them to make any true noise, it had to be due to Taulia’s efforts.
More than just statistics, Taulia looks so much more comfortable in the pocket. His pocket-presence and ability to improvise when a play breaks down is something that was not seen in 2020. Whether that is due to the new system or just maturing as a player is unknown. In this contest, Tagovailoa looked very poised, picking apart the soft zone that Kent State was playing. Instead of trying to go over the top of the zone, he waited for them to switch from man to man and then threw the deep ball, one of which was a 33 yard touchdown to Dontay Demus. Another bomb to Demus, a 64 yard strike, really was it in terms of huge passing plays for Maryland. The offense simply took what the defense gave them and settled for shorter gains.
Aside from Taulia impressing with his playmaking, Tavon Fleet-Davis was very efficient toting the rock. His 60 yards on seven carries might not be eye popping, but the two touchdowns he scored most certainly were superb. Fleet-Davis is amazingly shifty, too. His ability to evade tacklers is something that makes him another weapon for the Maryland offense. He is constantly assisting in the passing game as he is a complete back. His three catches for 33 yards only further drives this idea home.
Maybe this is beginning to sound repetitive, but the Maryland receiving corps were lethal in this outing. Dontay Demus went for 100 yards (again), Jeshaun Jones hauled in five passes for 78 yards, and perhaps the most unheralded player on the Terps, Chigoziem Okonkwo, brought in four passes for 44 yards. In particular, Okonkwo has deserved so much more praise for his efforts this season. In this game, he doubled his catches on the season, and tripled his yards. He is one of the most reliable red zone targets on the Terps, and is a tremendous safety blanket for Tagovailoa. In addition, his blocking is something that goes widely unnoticed by many fans, but it is certainly appreciated by his teammates.
Getting ready for the Gauntlet:
Maryland’s season has been so impressive so far, but for them to even reach a bowl game, it will be due to their ability to overcome adversity. The thought that Maryland goes undefeated this season is truly blasphemous. Of the remaining eight games on their schedule, five of them are against ranked teams. Over the course of those eight games, Maryland is most certainly going to lose. The only question that Maryland has yet to answer is about how they will respond to a loss. The true measure of a team is how they are able to rise above the challenges that arise over the course of the season.
Up first is Iowa. While there will be a more in depth preview about the game later in the week, it is important to know that Iowa will be the first measuring stick game for Maryland. If they are able to pull out a win, the recognition will follow. Right now, Coach Locksley has slowly been able to capture the national attention for the great work he has done at Maryland. The Terps cannot get complacent and must keep their intensity and focus up going into the stretch run of the season.