- The Washington Times
Saturday, September 25, 2021

Leave it to Maryland head football coach Mike Locksley to never be satisfied, even after a 21-point victory in his Terrapins’ final non-conference game of the season.

“I respect winning enough that obviously I’m visibly disappointed that we haven’t played to the standard,” Locksley said, “but I definitely want to give our team credit that we’re sitting here at 4-0 and we’re disappointed.”

A well-distributed offensive attack from Maryland and quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa led the Terrapins to a 37-16 victory over Kent State Saturday in College Park, even amid some miscues and mistakes.

“We’ve got a locker room full of guys that are happy that we won but not happy with the way we played,” Locksley said.

Maryland (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) is out to the program’s first 4-0 start in five years, but committed nine penalties for 129 yards, drawing most of the third-year coach’s ire after the game.

“It’s been an achilles heel,” Locksley said. “It’s been an issue.”

“I talk about it every week. That’s the deal with 18-to-22 year olds.”

Tagovailoa finished with 384 yards on 31 of 41 passing, with three touchdowns and one interception. It marks the third 300-yard passing game of the Hawaii native’s season, moving him into a fourth-place tie for 300-yard games in a season at Maryland with Scott Milanovich’s junior season in 1994.

“I thought our quarterback really showed command,” Locksley said. “He’s been incredibly efficient at running what we want to get run on offense.”

Twelve different Terrapins caught passes on the day - the most in a Maryland game in six years - as part of a Maryland offense that got a lot of hands involved, part of what Locksley called a plan to be “consistent with developing our team.”

“I love that, seeing my teammates have success regardless if it’s me,” wide receiver Dontay Demus, who finished with four receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown, said about so many of his teammates getting their hands on the ball.

“What it says to me is that we have a lot of confidence in the players we have there in the receiver room,” Locksley said

Tayon Fleet-Davis rushed for 60 yards and contributed two touchdowns of his own, including a 29-yard tight-rope effort down the right sideline on Maryland’s first drive of the second half. The Oxon Hill, Maryland, native now has four touchdowns on the season, all coming in the last two games.

“We don’t play to a team, we don’t play to a scoreboard,” Fleet-Davis said. “We play to a standard.”

Tagovailoa threw his first interception of the season in the first quarter, as a 10-yard pass intended for Rakim Jarrett went off his hands and right to KSU safety KJ Sherald. The pick led to Kent State’s first points of the game, a 35-yard Andrew Glass field goal.

Maryland responded off the interception with a quick three-play, 70-second drive, as Tagovailoa found redemption in the form of a 33-yard crossing-route touchdown to Dontay Demus. The score was Demus’ 13th all-time as a Terrapin, moving him into a tie for sixth in program history with Darrius Hayward-Bey and Guilian Gary.

Looking to spread the love, Tagovailoa emphasized balance on Maryland’s subsequent drive. The junior handed off five times and completed five passes, the final one a pretty six-yard fade to Jarrett in the left corner of the end zone to extend Maryland’s lead to 14-6 just seconds into the second quarter. 

Maryland’s first three touchdowns came at a quick pace - all within a combined 6:20 of possession, and four of the Terps’ five touchdown drives took less than 2:40 each.

Locksley called Kent State “battle tested” after two games against top-five teams this season, and their no-huddle offense featured a heavy dose of Marquez Cooper early. The sophomore from Gaithersburg, Maryland, carried eight times for 34 yards in the first quarter, but the Golden Flashes de-emphasized the run for a more pass-focused offense for the rest for the first half.

That attack featured lengthy passes from quarterback Dustin Crum of 40 yards to Dante Cephas and 34 yards to Nykiem Johnson, both of which set up Andrew Glass field goals, and a would-be 47-yard touchdown to Keshunn Abram that was negated by a Golden Flashes holding penalty.

Glass had his own touchdown - an 18-yard run around the right side of the line on a fake field goal - also negated by a holding penalty. 

Kent State pushed eight drives inside the Maryland 25, but turned the ball over on three of them and settled for field goals on three others. The Golden Flashes didn’t convert their first touchdown until a Dante Cephas 15-yard score in the fourth quarter.

Maryland scored on its first two possessions of the second half, including tight end Corey Dyches’ first touchdown as a Terp. The Terrapins now move fully into Big Ten Conference with a primetime game at Maryland Stadium next Friday night against No. 5 Iowa.

“My expectation is that we sell [Maryland Stadium] out with our fans. We create that environment that we’re gonna need,” Locksley said.

“We’ve earned this opportunity, but we’ve gotta get some things corrected.”

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