- The Washington Times
Saturday, November 26, 2022

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland reached seven regular season wins for the first time since 2014 behind a hat trick of touchdowns from Roman Hemby and a career day from Jeshaun Jones in a dominating 37-0 win over Rutgers on Saturday afternoon.

“Today was more about doing the simple things better,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley said. “It wasn’t a big scheme thing, wasn’t something where we went in saying, ‘Hey, here’s the special things we have to do.’ It was just about doing the simple things better.”

Eighteen Terrapins played in their final game at SECU Stadium, but it was the freshman running back from Edgewater, Maryland, that was the headliner on a sunny Senior Day.

Hemby rushed for 70 yards and scored twice from the 1-yard line in the first half and from 8 yards out in the second to pace the win — his second three-score performance of the season.

“I wasn’t playing horrible for the last few games of our stretch, but I felt like — and the coaching staff as well — I felt like I left a lot on the field,” Hemby said. “So I just wanted to get back to the old brand of football that I like to play and just making guys miss and breaking tackles and helping this team win.”

Jones also had himself a spectacular day, with the senior receiver reaching career highs in catches (nine) and yards (152), while adding a fourth-quarter touchdown.

“It means a lot,” Jones, who has missed parts of multiple seasons with torn knee ligaments, said of his performance. “I’ve been here for five years. I’ve worked and put in a lot of time and effort.”

Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa completed 25-of-37 passes for 342 yards and a touchdown. But for the second straight week,  he banged up his oft-injured right knee.

On third-and-2 from his own 45 nearing halftime, Tagovailoa scrambled up the middle for a first down, but stayed down on the field for a few minutes after the play. He was again favoring his right knee — the same one that was first injured Week 4 at Michigan and has been reaggravated a few times since.

He left the field under his own power, but reentered and led Maryland’s three third quarter drives, all of which ended in points. 

“My knee’s good. It’s the same thing,” Tagovailoa said. “It’s more so the top of the knee like when I hit something or like when it lands on it just gets aggravated again. But it’s good.”

DeMatha graduate Eric Najarian finished the second half at quarterback after Tagovailoa’s exit (with second-string reserve Billy Edwards Jr. not available due to an ankle injury). Najarian reentered late in the fourth quarter after Tagovailoa secured another notch in Maryland’s annals.

A year ago, Tagovailoa broke Maryland’s single-season passing yardage record against Rutgers. On Saturday, he hit another career landmark against the Scarlet Knights, reaching 50 passing touchdowns — now the program’s all-time mark for a quarterback — with Jones’ 27-yard score.

“What he’s been able to do here, I’m not surprised,” Locksley said. “I still think there’s more, and it’s my job to get it out of him. Our job is to make sure we’re doing the things that he‘s capable of executing, so it’s great to see him be able to come here and the things that we expected him to do.”

Both Tagovailoa and Jones were seated next to each other on the bench when Tagovailoa was honored on the scoreboard for the achievement. The two raised each others’ arms and stood up together for the crowd trying to give the other one credit, like wrestlers at the end of a competitive match.

“It meant a lot, and I know how much it means to him. I mean, he doesn’t really care about all the stats and stuff, but I think he deserved that,” Jones said. “I think he tells everybody he doesn’t know or he doesn’t pay attention to that. But I just know how hard he’s worked to get to this position.” 

The quarterback, expectedly, demurred.

“I think it’s, like I said, it’s just doing my job. I mean, you guys know more than me about [records],” Tagovailoa joked.

Maryland racked up 513 yards of total offense while limiting Rutgers (4-8, 1-8) to seven first downs, one third down conversion in 13 tries, and only 135 yards of offense in their first shutout of a Big Ten opponent since joining the conference in 2014.

“Our defense has been improving all year long, and one of the things that I really liked was just seeing the mental intensity of how we played a week ago against Ohio State, then being able to carry it over,” Locksley said.

To put a point on the domination: Rutgers punter Adam Korsak, one of the best in the nation, punted 10 times. Six of those were in a dismal Scarlet Knights first half that saw only 59 offensive yards, two first downs and zero third-down conversions. 

The only three Rutgers drives that didn’t end in punts? A failed fourth down try in the first quarter and the ends of both halves. All week, Locksley hammered home to his players about being consistent, and it paid off with what he called their most “complete performance” of the season.

“I think it’s back to back weeks with the mental intensity that you want to see. It’s not perfect, and that’s great because we still got some things to to grow with,” Locksley said.

Maryland finishes the regular season 5-2 at home and ties a program high with its fourth Big Ten win. The Terrapins await an announcement of their bowl destination, likely to come during the first week of December.

“It’s been a long, long, 12 weeks … [I’ll] just kind of decompress and enjoy this time and with with these guys, some who won’t be around for sure next year,” Jones said about having a bit of a respite before bowl game practices begin. “So it’s just trying to enjoy that and enjoy these last moments with them.”

• George Gerbo can be reached at ggerbo@washingtontimes.com.

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