As Taulia Tagovailoa escaped a collapsing pocket, Jeshaun Jones also broke free from his opponent’s grasp. He gained a step on the cornerback opposite him, who Jones said had been “chirping” at him earlier in the game. Tagovailoa sprinted to his side of the field and locked on one of his most trusted targets over the past four seasons.

Jones hauled in a Tagovailoa toss down the right sideline and trotted into the end zone. He turned around to watch the defender fall to the ground in a last-ditch effort to catch Jones’ legs as he crossed the goal line. After a sluggish opening half, Maryland had its first lead of the night, an occasion worthy of a jeer like Jones’.

One of the Terps’ longest tenured players gave them a seven-point advantage in an eventual 42-14 home win over Virginia (0-3).

Maryland’s starts have frustrated coach Michael Locksley. But after his offense went down, they again piled on in the second half in Friday’s revival of a former conference rivalry to pull away after an even start.

“I think I have enough proof that we’re a team built to overcome adversity,” Locksley said. “I don’t think I need to see us down 14-0 anymore to know that we’re capable.”

[Versatile defenders allow Maryland football to keep players fresh and offenses guessing]

Braeden Wisloski’s kickoff return touchdown did little to spark what was a dormant Terps offense in the first half. Their second consecutive slow start produced just seven first-half points; Wislowski’s score and Roman Hemby’s touchdown before the break provided enough to enter halftime tied.

When Maryland returned from its locker room, Tagovailoa led an air attack that outscored the Cavaliers 28-0. The Terps got going on the ground, too. Hemby, Antwain Littleton II and Colby McDonald each found the end zone in the second half for three of the team’s four touchdowns out of the break.

“Once we’re rolling, we’re rolling,” Jones said.

Virginia’s air attack shredded its way through the Terps defensive backfield with an up-tempo pace and trick plays.

After the opening quarter gave way to the second, the unit turned back into the one that allowed just one touchdown through Maryland’s first two games. The Terps held the Cavaliers scoreless the rest of the way while the offense fought out of its early hole.

“Nobody’s liked the way we play defense in the first couple of drives the last couple of games,” Locksley said. “There’s some things I’ll have to do and some adjustments I’ll have to make.”

Locksley moved Tarheeb Still between the slot and outside cornerback positions Friday as Virginia neared the end zone. Still manned the nickel in previous years before transitioning between the roles in 2023.

[‘I didn’t see panic’: Maryland football faltered against Charlotte but didn’t collapse]

He showed his versatility with a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter — one from each position and two of Maryland’s four takeaways in the final 15 minutes.

Still broke early on a throw behind an out-breaking Virginia receiver in the end zone when Maryland only led by a touchdown, thwarting the Cavaliers’ best chance at an equalizer before the Terps pulled too far ahead. After studying film throughout the week and recognizing the formation, he knew what was coming: Double drive seven.

“No. 1 receiver ran a five-yard in, No. 2, he ran a five-yard in. No. 3, the guy I was covering, he ran a corner route” Still said. “… We showed a single-high look and they thought they could take advantage of it but I made a good play.”

Still and the Terps’ defense have shined through three games, helping the Terps overcome a sluggish offensive start and surge to a subsequent comeback. Maryland is undefeated after nonconference play for the third straight season.

When Tagovailoa and the offense stalled again Friday, the quarterback returned to the target he has the most rapport with to energize another resurgent win.

“Personally, I don’t feel like we’ve clicked how we need to yet,” Jones said.