Maryland football was not perfect Saturday against Kent State. But the Terps didn’t need to be.
Despite a rash of drops and penalties, the Golden Flashes could not keep up with coach Mike Locksley’s squad. And given multiple chances at redemption, Maryland capitalized, beating Kent State, 37-16.
“We’ve got a locker room full of guys that are happy we won,” Locksley said. “We’re not happy with the way we played. We know we can play better.”
In their final tuneup for Big Ten play, the Terps (4-0) showed enough poise to battle through the sloppy play. They used a bevy of hands to do so, led on offense as usual by Tayon Fleet-Davis, Taulia Tagovailoa and Dontay Demus.
Fleet-Davis carried over his strong performance from a week ago, pounding ahead for a three-yard touchdown and later breaking loose for a 29-yard score. It was just the second time the redshirt senior had rushed for multiple touchdowns in his college career.
Tagovailoa, meanwhile, cruised to another efficient afternoon. The quarterback went 31-for-41 for 384 yards and three touchdowns, his third 300-yard passing performance of the season. One of those scores went to Corey Dyches, who hauled in his first career touchdown.
Dyches was one of 12 Maryland receivers with a catch, a group led by Demus. The senior broke wide open for a 33-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Then, he hauled in a catch and found space in the secondary to break loose for 64 yards, setting up Fleet-Davis to score two plays later.
On defense, the Terps’ starters kept the Flashes (1-3) at bay, bending several times but ultimately never breaking. In seven red zone trips, Kent State only managed one touchdown, hurt by two holding calls reversing would-be scores. The Flashes settled for three Andrew Glass field goals.
“One of our goals is to keep our opponents from scoring touchdowns,” defensive end Sam Okuayinonu said. “We did that for the most part.”
But Maryland committed several mistakes that frustrated Locksley.
The Terps dropped a handful of passes, including a bobble from the normally sure-handed Demus that stalled a promising opening drive. On the next series, Tagovailoa’s pass zipped in and out of Rakim Jarrett’s hands and ended up in the arms of Kent State safety KJ Sherald for his first interception of the season.
Late in the second quarter, Jarrett and Jeshaun Jones couldn’t get a handle on Tagovailoa’s end-zone targets, and Maryland settled for a field goal. Tagovailoa himself was inconsistent at times, too, overthrowing Chig Okonkwo and missing behind Jarrett.
And the Terps committed more troubling penalties. Greg Rose hit Flashes quarterback Dustin Crum late, which helped set Glass within kicking range. At the end of the first half, another pair of late hits nearly led to an untimed field goal, though the second penalty was ultimately assessed on the second-half kickoff. Maryland racked up 120 yards in penalties on the afternoon.
“We clean up those little mistakes and just stay on track, we’ll be fine,” Fleet-Davis said. “We can’t kill ourselves.”
Those errors did not cost the Terps Saturday, but they could be critical in Big Ten play if not corrected.
Still, Maryland did enough right to cruise past Kent State. Though the Flashes added a garbage time touchdown against the Terps’ backups, it was far too late to matter.
In its quest to end non-conference play undefeated, Maryland succeeded.
“We’re sitting here at 4-0, and we’re disappointed,” Locksley said. “That means we’re headed in the right direction.”