Maryland football turned a first and goal from the three-yard line into a second and goal from the 16-yard line after two pre-snap penalties and a negative three-yard gain.
It didn’t matter as quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa wiggled to his left through a small hole in a rapidly crumbling pocket and found Jeshaun Jones standing alone for a touchdown.
The Terps’ overwhelming offensive talent helped them overcome penalties and a slow defensive start en route to a 56-21 road rout over Charlotte.
“We have playmakers on the perimeter, in the backfield, we’ve got a dynamic quarterback and then we have what I feel like is the most improved offensive line in the country,” Locksley said. “When you have that formula, you’re very diverse on offense.”
Tagovailoa’s 87 percent completion percentage set a Maryland single-game record. He finished with 366 yards and five total touchdowns before exiting the game midway through the third quarter. He left after scoring a rushing touchdown due to cramps and was replaced on the next drive by freshman Billy Edwards Jr.
The Terps’ starting quarterback returned with just over 14 minutes left in the fourth quarter for one fourth down play where he completed a 26-yard pass to Leon Haughton Jr. for a first down.
The Maryland offense racked up 619 total yards and didn’t punt in nine of its ten drives. Colby McDonald and Antwain Littleton II combined for 120 rushing yards and each notched breakaway touchdowns of 49 and 59 yards, respectively.
“It was a read option for us … the linebacker, he went right with the QB. As soon as I [saw] him take off, I see the hole, I just hit it,” McDonald said.
Transfer Jacob Copeland started the scoring after racing past the 49ers’ defense for a 39-yard touchdown on Maryland’s fifth offensive play of the game. He doubled down with a 45-yard score early in the second quarter.
“I felt real confident about everything and my teammates felt confident in me,” Copeland said. “I couldn’t let them down.”
He finished with four catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns in his second game as a Terp. Copeland led all Maryland pass-catchers in yards while Jones matched him in touchdowns.
Those contributions proved essential to a squad that consistently put itself in bad situations. The Terps committed eight penalties for 48 yards a week after they totaled 82 yards on eight penalties in their season-opening win against Buffalo.
Four of those fouls came on offense, as false starts and holds plagued Maryland’s experienced offensive line.
Maryland’s defense fails to capitalize on inexperienced opponent
Charlotte entered Saturday’s game without its first and second-string quarterbacks, forcing redshirt freshman Xavier Williams to make his first start against the Terps.
Maryland didn’t take advantage of the inexperienced signal-caller. Its defense struggled early, giving up a fifteen-play, 75-yard drive that ate up almost six minutes of the clock.
Locksley’s squad allowed the 49ers to drive 80 yards and score their second touchdown early in the second quarter but clamped down for a six-drive stretch where they forced two punts, two turnovers on downs and saw the first half expire.
However, the Terps’ defense only registered its first sack with under a minute left in the game and did not have an interception even with Williams’ inexperience. The Charlotte quarterback completed 19 of 35 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns.
“Obviously, we’d love to have more turnovers,” Locksley said. “Those come with the opportunities that present themself. We continue to stress the importance of trying to get takeaways.”
He also said his team needs to create more pressure, especially in games like Saturday when they face an abundance of passing plays that create pass rush opportunities.
The Terps schedule toughens from here, with one more non conference game against SMU and a daunting matchup with Michigan after. They’ll need big plays from their defense to deal with the improved caliber of opponent.