All week before playing Central Florida, the Maryland football team’s coaching staff stressed the importance of keeping quarterback McKenzie Milton in the pocket.

Defensive coordinator Andy Buh said Milton would cause problems if the squad failed to contain his rushing skill set. As a freshman last season, Milton ran for three touchdowns, including one against the Terps.

Despite the focus, Milton rushed for a career-high 94 yards in Central Florida’s 38-10 win Saturday, nullifying a staunch effort from the secondary to limit the passing game.

“He was able to use his feet today really well,” linebacker Jermaine Carter said. “We knew he was a very capable quarterback scrambling, but we didn’t do a great job of keeping him inside the pocket. That was one of our keys.”

Central Florida’s spread offense is similar to what Maryland saw from then-No. 23 Texas in a Sept. 2 win to open the year. Both teams rely on quarterback mobility and quick passes to move the ball.

So the Terps felt prepared to meet the Knights’ explosive attack, which scored 61 points in the team’s only other game this season.

“A lot of the spread offenses these days carry similar schematics,” Buh said Wednesday. “It’s always easier when you’re facing that within a two-week span. We’re fortunate. … We’ve already faced a spread offense, and now we’ve got that opportunity against UCF.”

But instead of keeping their game plan’s top priority in check, the Terps allowed Milton space to carry the ball outside. While he’d displayed a knack for keeping plays alive with his legs in previous games, he reached a new level Saturday, besting his previous top rushing total by 57 yards.

On the opening drive of the game, Milton converted a third-and-5 with a 12-yard sprint down the right sideline. After a 14-yard scramble up the middle near the end of the first quarter, he emphatically motioned his right arm forward to indicate another conversion.

Milton’s 55-yard third-quarter sprint up the right side, which safety Darnell Savage ended with a shove out of bounds, set up a 6-yard touchdown toss to tight end Jordan Akins that gave Central Florida a 21-3 lead.

“He had some key plays in clutch situations,” Central Florida coach Scott Frost said. “Some of the third-down completions he made were big. … Then his runs on third down. Those are two drives we scored on that got extended because he made a play with his feet.”

While Milton was inconsistent through the air, amassing just 178 yards and a touchdown, his rushing performance kept Maryland’s defense off-balanced. The display marked a stark improvement from his college debut against the Terps last season, when he fumbled six times in a 30-24 overtime loss for the Knights.

Maryland players appeared deflated during post-game interviews after the blowout defeat. But with the start of conference play looming, they tried not to dwell on the disappointing showing.

“We have to keep our head up,” Carter said. “We start Big Ten play next week. We have another challenge in Minnesota.”