Michael Locksley received a text from Ralph Friedgen right before kickoff. The legendary Maryland coach told Locksley to make sure his team was ready to play, not to overlook Indiana ahead of its Week 6 matchup against No. 4 Ohio State.
The Terps were undoubtedly ready from the opening kickoff.
Maryland’s offense struck just 25 seconds in as Taulia Tagovailoa and Tai Felton connected for six on a screen pass on the right side. The duo linked again nine minutes later, when a bust in the Indiana secondary left Felton wide open up the seam in the end zone. A Tagovailoa 19-yard rushing score capped off a three-touchdown first quarter.
A Terps’ win was never in doubt. Maryland football dominated Indiana from the first snap as it cruised past the Hoosiers, 44-17, to secure their first 5-0 start since 2001.
“I thought today was probably the most complete game that we’ve played in all three phases,” Locksley said. “Started fast, finished strong, playing to our standard.”
The Terps’ offense got off to a blazing start for the second straight week. Tagovailoa connected with an open Jeshaun Jones for a 62-yard completion on Maryland’s (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) first play from scrimmage as the Hoosiers’ secondary lost track of the wideout.
“When Jones caught that first deep one … when he got started, I was like ‘Okay, it’s time to go’,” Felton said. “Thank you to Jones [for] getting that momentum boost.”
Successful blocking on the Felton screen two plays later put the Terps ahead just 25 seconds in.
Felton then scored his second of three touchdowns midway through the opening quarter on Indiana’s busted coverage for an easy 29-yard touchdown.
Maryland’s first-quarter onslaught continued in the second. Tagovailoa displayed his dual-threat ability, keeping a read-option for a 19-yard touchdown scamper. The Hoosiers’ (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) defense bit hard on the fake to Roman Hemby, allowing Tagovailoa to score untouched and extending the lead to 21-3.
The Tagovailoa and Felton connection was near perfect in the first half. The quarterback delivered his third touchdown to Felton on a 9-yard slant with 36 seconds left in the half, pushing Maryland’s lead up to three scores.
Felton racked up 69 yards and five catches on eight targets over the first two quarters. It was his first 100 yard game and he became the first Terp to tally three receiving touchdowns in a game since Torrey Smith in 2010.
“I think this may do wonders for the confidence he needs to play with,” Locksley said. “… I’m hoping today it jumpstarts him to where that becomes the standard for him and how he can play for us.”
Tagovailoa looked elsewhere for his fourth passing score. He found Dylan Wade open on play action to extend Maryland’s lead to 37-3. While he didn’t score this time, Felton’s 46-yard grab set up the touchdown.
Tagovailoa punctuated his day with his fifth passing touchdown — the most in a game by a Terps quarterback since Scott Milanovich in 1994. He found Kaden Prathers open in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter to end his best outing of the season completing 24 of 34 passes for 352 yards without a turnover. He accounted for all six of Maryland’s touchdowns.
The Terps’ offense took advantage of excellent field position given to them by their defense. Two of Maryland’s scoring drives started inside Indiana’s 30-yard line after consecutive three and outs and poor punts.
The Hoosiers failed to move the ball past their own 10-yard line on their second drive of the day. Caleb Wheatland sacked Tayven Jackson on third down on the Hoosiers’ ensuing drive, and a 23-yard punt return put Maryland’s offense on the edge of the red zone.
Its defense was on the field for the majority of the second quarter. Brian Williams’ unit allowed 132 yards on 28 plays, but held Indiana scoreless as a pair of fourth down stops and a Fa’Najae Gotay interception thwarted any opportunities the Hoosiers had to cut into their deficit.
Tagovailoa and Felton’s record outings made Indiana’s two fourth-quarter touchdowns irrelevant.
The victory secured the Terps their best start to a campaign since 2001. That season they beat a ranked team on the road to improve to 6-0 and ultimately a conference championship. On the road against the Buckeyes next week, they’ve got a chance for another such victory.
“I think this team is just young and dumb enough to show up and play like they’re capable of playing and we’ll see what happens,” Locksley said.