Maryland’s offense found its stride in the first half against Kent State Sept. 25 with several explosive plays and built on that in the second half. Guided by that high-octane offense, the Terps burst out to a 24-9 halftime lead and eventually won, 37-16, against the Golden Flashes.
With the victory, Maryland is 4-0 for the first time since 2016.
Here are three players that stood out Saturday afternoon:
No. 1: Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa
In Maryland’s first three games, Tagovailoa effectively protected the ball. He did not lose a fumble or throw an interception. That changed on the Terps’ second drive against Kent State, as Tagovailoa’s pass was behind sophomore receiver Rakim Jarrett and deflected into the arms of Keith Sherald.
However, the young signal caller responded to the adversity by orchestrating three consecutive touchdown drives. On his first touchdown, Tagovailoa fired a strike to senior receiver Dontay Demus in stride on a crossing pattern for a 33-yard touchdown.
On the following drive, Tagovailoa continued to methodically move the ball down field. Facing a first-and-15, Tagovailoa lofted the ball over several defenders into the arms of senior tight end Chig Okonkwo along the sideline for a 24-yard catch. Several plays later on third-and-goal, Tagovailoa connected with Jarrett on a 6-yard fade route in the corner of the end zone.
Tagovailoa’s confidence remained high and his ball placement precise as the first half progressed. On the first play of Maryland’s fifth drive, Tagovailoa found Demus for a 64-yard reception. That big play set the Terps up deep in the red zone, as the Golden Flashes struggled to contain Maryland’s receivers.
On each of those big plays, Tagovailoa’s ball placement allowed the receivers to maintain their momentum downfield. Two of Maryland’s three touchdown drives in the first half were three plays and lasted less than 1:20 because of explosive plays.
Overall, the junior quarterback finished 31 of 41 with 384 yards and three touchdowns, his third 300-yard passing performance of the season. He continued to spread the wealth, connecting with 12 different receivers. That marked the most pass-catchers for a Maryland team in a single game since Nov. 7, 2015 against Indiana, a testament to the Terps’ depth and versatility at the skill positions.
No. 2: Running Back Tayon Fleet-Davis
After waiting several seasons, Tayon Fleet-Davis is now the veteran of Maryland’s running back room. His patience has paid dividends. Fleet-Davis has developed into an integral part of Maryland’s offense, scoring touchdowns in three consecutive games. He’s the team’s leading rusher with 321 yards on 45 attempts, averaging 7.1 yards per carry.
The redshirt senior running back scored a pair of touchdowns for the second consecutive week, posting 60 yards on seven carries. His first touchdown came two plays after Demus’ 64-yard reception, the Terps’ third score of the game. Fleet-Davis battled past two defenders, extending the ball across the goal line with a strong effort.
However, Fleet-Davis’ most impressive play came on Maryland’s second drive of the third quarter. On first-and-10 from the 29-yard line, Fleet Davis found an opening down the Terps’ sideline and burst through it. Advancing past the sticks, with exquisite footwork, he tip-toed down the sideline for a 29-yard score. The run showed both great balance and vision, extending the Terps’ lead to 37-9 early in the third quarter.
Not only is he a threat on the ground, but he is also a receiving threat out of the backfield. He finished with three receptions for 33 yards, serving as a weapon on swing passes and a safety valve for Tagovailoa in pressure situations.
That effectiveness in both passing and running situations distinguishes Fleet-Davis from some of the team’s younger running backs. As the schedule becomes more daunting, Fleet-Davis’ capabilities as a runner and receiving threat will be relied upon more heavily.
No. 3: Wide Receiver Dontay Demus
In a wide receiver corps filled with a plethora of weapons, Demus is the leader and tone-setter of the group. He finished with four receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown against Kent State, his third game this season with more than 100 receiving yards.
Despite an early drop, the senior wideout dominated the opening 30 minutes and scored the Terps’ first touchdown of the game. Finding space on a crossing route, Demus caught Tagovailoa’s pass in stride and sprinted down the left sideline for Maryland’s first touchdown of the game.
That was his 13th career touchdown as a Terp, No. 6 all time in program history. It also marked his 27th consecutive game with a reception. (He has been a mainstay of Maryland’s receiving group since his freshman season.)
However, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound wide receiver wasn’t finished sprinting by Kent State’s secondary. Demus once again burst open over the middle of the field during Maryland’s third touchdown drive. After the catch, Demus continued to surge down field, outsprinting several Golden Flashes defenders.
The 64-yard completion was Demus’ second 60-plus-yard reception this season and another example of his athleticism after the catch. His combination of size, route running and athleticism has consistently given opposing defenses fits.
He’ll look to continue that success Oct. 1 against Maryland’s toughest opponent yet in No. 5 Iowa.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox