Two games, two blowout wins for Michael Locksley and Maryland football.
The Terps dominated No. 21 Syracuse on both sides of the ball Saturday afternoon, coming away with a 63-20 victory in College Park. Maryland is now 2-0 for the fourth straight season, and its 142 points in the first two games mark the program’s highest-ever scoring output in consecutive contests.
Maryland’s offense scored seven touchdowns on its first eight drives, turning an expected close game into a rout in short order. Quarterback Josh Jackson led the way, completing 21 of his 38 passes for 296 yards and three scores. The Terps also rushed for 354 yards and six touchdowns against a Syracuse defense coming off a shutout of Liberty. Maryland led 42-13 at halftime, its most points in any half against a ranked opponent since the Miracle at Miami in 1984.
It was dominance in nearly all phases of the game. Here’s what stood out.
1. The Terps started fast and didn’t slow down.
Maryland scored on its first three drives against an Orange defense ranked 12th in the country by Bill Connelly’s SP+. After punting early in the second quarter, the Terps ripped off three more touchdown drives to end the half with a 29-point lead. Their 42 first-half points are their most against a power five conference foe since 2003, and they racked up 397 yards along the way.
Last week against Howard, Maryland’s offense took some time to settle in. Jackson started 2-of-6 and the Terps punted on two of their first three possessions. This time, they were clicking from the opening kickoff. Jackson’s first pass was a 40-yarder to Darryl Jones. He was 3-for-3 on that opening touchdown drive, 7-for-10 in the first quarter and 17-for-28 by the end of the half.
“We keep stressing that starting fast is really important for us in all three phases, for us to get a good start and to also finish faster,” Locksley said after the game. “And today, I thought we did that.”
Maryland went 8-of-9 on third downs in the opening half and finished the afternoon 11-of-15. The Terps rarely found themselves in third-and-long situations, and had more than enough weapons to convert from shorter distances. The offense tallied 29 first downs in total and went 8-for-8 in the red zone.
2. Anthony McFarland and Javon Leake did their thing.
McFarland exited stage right early last week after six carries, 19 yards and two scores. Against Syracuse, he showed why he was a recurring guest on award watch lists this summer. The redshirt sophomore scored three first-half touchdowns -- two rushing, one receiving -- giving him five in the first two contests. McFarland finished with 75 rushing yards on 14 carries and 45 receiving yards on two catches.
Leake, meanwhile, led the Terps with 107 rushing yards on just seven carries, highlighted by a 64-yard breakaway touchdown to start the second half and a three-yard scamper in the second quarter.
After Leake’s touchdown gave Maryland a 36-point lead in the third quarter, Tayon Fleet-Davis and Jake Funk started to factor into the rotation. Fleet-Davis received 11 carries, tallied 67 yards and scored his first touchdown of the season early in the fourth quarter. Then Funk accounted for all 92 yards of the final touchdown drive, giving him 94 rushing yards on five carries.
“All the way to the last back, anybody can start anywhere, that’s what I feel like,” Leake said. “It’s a lot of talent in that room, as you can see. Whoever gets in, you know something’s gonna happen -- big run or catch, block, anything. It’s just that type of talent.”
3. The tight end tandem was heavily featured.
Maryland tight ends caught 10 passes in 2018. The position group has hit that number in just two games this fall.
Grad transfer Tyler Mabry hauled in a team-high four receptions for 22 yards and opened the scoring with a seven-yard touchdown catch less than three minutes in. He’s the first Terps tight end to catch a touchdown pass in consecutive games since Dan Gronkowski in 2008. Sophomore Chigoziem Okonkwo, meanwhile, recorded three receptions for 45 yards, including a 23-yarder on third-and-5 early in the second quarter.
Mabry and Okonkwo have shown versatility early, as both lined up on the outside at multiple points Saturday. While blocking is still a key part of the position, this duo gives Maryland its most dangerous receiving threats at the position in perhaps more than a decade.
“[In their base defense] they can’t cover Chig, they can’t handle my blocks, it’s like the Iowa tight ends (first-rounders T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant) last year,” Mabry said. “I feel like we’re gonna be something special.”
4. Maryland’s defense held its own.
It wasn’t another shutout, but the defense did more than enough against the Orange. Syracuse scored three times, but Maryland forced two turnovers, five punts and three unsuccessful fourth downs. The Terps also allowed just 70 rushing yards on 29 Syracuse attempts (discounting sacks, the number is 97 on 3.9 per tote).
The linebacker group was without redshirt junior Shaq Smith (groin), but the rest of the unit picked up the slack. Senior Keandre Jones tallied eight total tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble, which was recovered by redshirt sophomore Ayinde Eley and led to a Terps touchdown. The other Syracuse turnover came courtesy of a Jordan Mosley second-quarter interception, which gave the Terps a short field and set up a McFarland 20-yard scamper.
Maryland’s secondary still had some shaky moments, with miscommunications leading to big plays and three passing touchdowns. Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito finished 28-of-39 for 330 yards, and Trishton Jackson had 157 yards for two scores. But Locksley is still pleased with his defense in the aggregate.
“When you play the type of defense we play, you’re gonna give up some plays, and it’s just how you respond,” Locksley said. “Some of the deep balls we gave up, we had guys in position, and I just feel like I’ve got to do a better job of getting us the work our corners need to play the deep ball when it’s there. … But it was great. Our defense gave us two early stops and then a turnover, which allowed us to put points on the board, and we’re a team that kind of feeds off of that energy.”
5. It’s a statement win in Locksley’s second game.
It’s one thing to demolish Howard, an FCS team with a new coach coming off a losing season. It’s another to put up points just as easy against the nation’s No. 21 team. This was always going to be the first test of Locksley’s tenure, and his Terps passed with flying colors.
Maryland has now knocked off a ranked foe in three straight Septembers (the other wins came against Texas). And the Terps are 2-0 for the fourth straight season. But each of the last two years, that hot start has preceded a letdown loss. Maryland has a chance to reverse that trend next weekend, visiting a Temple team that won 35-14 in College Park last season.
“We’re laying a foundation,” Locksley said. “I promise you we’re not even close to being the type of team that I know I want us to be, and I know our team isn’t satisfied with the type of team we are. … We stress to our guys that winning takes care of itself when you have the right kind of habits and behaviors.”
Kickoff in Philadelphia is at noon ET Sept. 14.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox