Maryland football entered halftime trailing Charlotte. Two 49er touchdowns in the game’s first four minutes put the Terps into a sizable deficit that took until the second half to erase.
Roman Hemby’s 40-yard rush on the opening drive of the third quarter showed Maryland had moved on from that ugly half. Then when the Terps arrived inches away from the Charlotte end zone, Taulia Tagovailoa exited and backup Billy Edwards Jr. entered and powered his way over the goal line on a quarterback sneak.
Edwards provided the Terps their first lead of the game, an effort that took over 30 minutes of game time after a catastrophic introduction.
Despite that inauspicious start, Maryland rebounded after the intermission to avoid an upset and defeat Charlotte, 38-20.
“Nobody in the locker room was excited about how we played,” coach Michael Locksley said. “… I was really glad to see us come and fight through the adversity together.”
Hemby led a Terps rushing attack that took control of Maryland’s offense in the second half. He accounted for 87 scrimmage yards — more than he registered in totality a week ago against Towson — as the Terps (2-0) drove into the 49ers’ red zone on both drives.
He matched Antwain Littleton II with four carries each in the first half as neither found their groove; the duo combined for just 24 yards on eight rushes. After the break, Hemby pushed his way to 152 yards on just 15 carries, one of his final runs a 15-yard touchdown to give Maryland its largest lead of the night.
“I feel like we were able to wear the defense out a little bit towards the end of the game,” Hemby said. “I run behind a great offensive line so I was able to just make some plays when I needed to make them.”
Colby McDonald overtook Littleton as the No. 2 back after the latter was benched following an unnecessary roughness penalty that stalled a promising drive earlier in the win.
“Colby gets the opportunity, he takes advantage of the opportunity,” Locksley said. “To me that’s how we’re gonna play this thing. If guys don’t play to our standard, [if they’re] gonna have dumb penalties, you’re gonna be on the bench.”
McDonald displayed explosiveness in his limited usage, highlighted by a 23-yard touchdown to kick off the Terps’ three-touchdown fourth quarter.
Tagovailoa relied on Hemby during the quarterback’s early struggles. Tagovailoa’s first pass was an interception returned for a touchdown, and Maryland collected just one first down in the opening quarter. He improved in the second quarter, tallying 14 completions and 167 yards, then led the offense to 29 second-half points.
Tagovailoa nearly connected with Kaden Prather for a 32-yard touchdown just before halftime, which was erased when Prather was called for pass interference. But the quarterback trusted Prather and returned to him in a similar situation later. This time, it stood for six points.
He launched a perfect 40-yard bomb in stride to Prather, who ran free past the Charlotte secondary for the connection’s second touchdown this season. The score put the Terps up 17 after trailing by five at halftime.
Maryland’s defense got off to an unusually poor start. The 49ers moved the ball comfortably on the ground to cross midfield on the opening possession, which set up a coverage breakdown in the Terps’ secondary and an easy 48-yard touchdown.
But from that point on, defensive coordinator Brian Williams’ unit locked in.
Jaishawn Barham collected his first two sacks of the season, Kobi Thomas registered another and Sean Greeley scooped up a fumble. Defensive lineman Donnell Brown intercepted Jalon Jones to open the fourth quarter. Outside of a late touchdown with the game already put away, the defense held the Charlotte offense scoreless after its first possession.
“They got the touchdown early, got another touchdown early, and it happens sometimes so you can’t really get too flustered about it,” Brown said. “Only thing you can do is just reset, go back into it, and hopefully do what you got to do.”
The Terps’ defense kept Maryland afloat as its offense struggled to find itself in the first half. The unit that was invisible to start then starred late to push the Terps to a comfortable Week 2 win.