The Maryland Terrapin football team came to Nashville, Tennessee as a strong underdog and labeled as a team that had no chance to beat the likes of an SEC team like the Auburn Tigers. With record-setting Terps’ QB, Taulia Tagovailoa, opting-out of the TransPerfect Music City Bowl, head coach Mike Locksley turned to his inexperienced backup Billy Edwards Jr. to start this bowl game that was broadcasted nationally on ABC. Edwards led the Terps to a commanding 31-13 victory over Auburn on Saturday at Nissan Stadium, plus Edwards earned the MVP Award for this bowl game. This is the first time the Terps have ever won three consecutive bowl games dating back to 2021’s Pinstripe Bowl victory, and last year’s Duke’s Mayo Bowl win over NC State.
The Terps scored three touchdowns in the first quarter to put the game nearly out of reach and quiet the Auburn fans in an announced attendance of 50,088. Those 21 points scored by the Terps set a first quarter scoring record in Maryland’s storied bowl history.
The Tigers’ offense went three-and-out in their first two drives of the game and Maryland’s defense was a key in that first quarter dominamce. Auburn narrowly avoided a third three-and-out drive thanks to Oscar Chapman successfully executing a fake punt from inside the Tigers’ own 15-yard line. It was an act of desperation from Auburn that worked with the trickeration. The very next play showed that the Terps meant business on defense as they stalled the Tigers on one of many occasions in the game, and Auburn’s offense eventually turned the ball over on downs, ending a 14-play, 42-yard drive that stalled near midfield.
When Maryland got the ball back on the next series of downs, this is when Locksley knew he could test the Auburn defense and take shots down the field. Both Billy Edwards and freshman quarterback Cameron Edge tore up Auburn’s defense in the first quarter as they combined for 158 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air. This was basically the end of a War Eagle battle today.
Maryland’s kicker, Jack Howes, booted a 49 yard field goal, which was the longest in Terps ‘ bowl history. Maryland went into halftime up 24-7 over Auburn. Of course, there has been enough football history to tell you that 17 point leads aren’t always safe, and Maryland came out of halftime with visions of scoring more.
Cornerback Glendon Miller continued to help pour it on for the Terps in the second half with his 44-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. It was the Terps’ first pick-six in a game since 2018, and the first in a bowl game since 2002. That score pushed the Terps up to 31 points, and the ability for Locksley and his coaches to get more players an opportunity to experience playing in a bowl game.
“I’m really proud of this team, proud of the way our seniors led this program. Three straight bowl wins, back-to-back eight-win seasons. It’s not easy to do here…To be able to sit here as three straight seasons finishing with wins at the end of the season is a testament to these kids. I love the contributions we got from some of the young players today. I love the way the veteran players led us and finished the job, which you see very rarely in college football these days, and obviously they found a way to get the job done.”— Coach Locksley said after the game
While this is another great notch for the Locksley led Terps team, there is still plenty of work to be done in the off- season. He mentioned on the stage that there will be some quarterback competition when it comes to next season. Earlier this month, former N.C State quarterback MJ Morris announced he was transferring to Maryland for the 2024 season. This should give Locksley a lot to figure out after the performances of Edwards and Edge today.
This bowl win closes out Maryland’s 2023 season for the Terps with an 8-5 record. It was an up-and-down roller coaster of a season and look forward to what 2024 might bring for the Terps. Could 2024 be the year that the Terps finally prevail to the top of the Big Ten just as Locksley suggested? Only time will tell, but we look forward to being there for another ride. Each year has been a bit different, but very rewarding to watch until the end with the three consecutive bowl wins to finish each season.