Sep 10, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA;  Maryland Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa (3) makes a throw during pregame activity against the Charlotte 49ers  at Jerry Richardson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Efficient QBs headline high-powered battle between Maryland, SMU

Stepping down from elite programs has paved the way to success for two of the more prolific quarterbacks in the Football Bowl Subdivision this year — SMU’s Tanner Mordecai and Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa.

Saturday night in College Park, Md., when former Oklahoma backup Mordecai takes on former Alabama reserve Tagovailoa, it will be a matchup of quarterbacks guiding 2-0 teams that have yet to be tested.

In the third-ever meeting of the teams, expect more offense than in the first two games — a pair of Maryland wins in the 1960s in which the teams scored a combined 27 points.

Mordecai has thrown for 644 yards and seven touchdowns — ranking No. 11 in pass efficiency in the FBS — while Tagovailoa has thrown for 681 yards and four touchdowns to rank 13th in efficiency.

Both lead well-rounded offenses that average more than 500 yards and 40 points per game, though the competition has been suspect.

SMU is off to a quick start under new coach Rhett Lashlee with wins over North Texas, 48-10, and Football Championship Subdivision side Lamar, 45-16. Lashlee took over after former coach Sonny Dykes left for TCU.

“You all have seen our schedule,” Lashlee said. “The preseason’s over. It’s about to get real, both out of conference and in conference.”

Mordecai will look to receiver Rashee Rice, who has 17 catches for 298 yards and three touchdowns, and running backs TJ McDaniel and Velton Gardner, who have combined for 237 rushing yards and two touchdowns this season. Gardner missed the season opener against North Texas after ripping one of his contact lenses.

Maryland’s offense features a trio of veteran outside threats. Dontay Demus led the Terps in receptions and yards in 2019 and 2020. Rakim Jarrett led those categories last year. This year, that distinction belongs to another wideout, Jeshaun Jones.

The Terps’ top three running backs — two redshirt freshmen and a sophomore — each average at least 8.9 yards per carry.

“That backfield reminds me of the young group that our receivers were that now have become those veteran players,” Locksley said. “And I think they’ll continue to get better.”

For the second straight week, Maryland will be without starting cornerback and punt returner Tarheeb Still (finger), Locksley said on Tuesday. A platoon of Jones, Deonte Banks and Shadrick Byrd filled in for Still in the return game in the 56-21 win at Charlotte.

–Field Level Media

Dec 29, 2021; New York, NY, USA; Maryland Terrapins head coach Mike Locksley (left) talks with offensive lineman Jaelyn Duncan (71) during the second half of the 2021 Pinstripe Bowl against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Struggling Charlotte to host confident Maryland

During his Tuesday press conference, Maryland football coach Mike Locksley congratulated tennis player Francis Tiafoe for his U.S. Open victory the previous night over 22-time major champion Rafael Nadal.

Locksley later compared Maryland native Tiafoe to his team, which also is looking for a breakthrough season. That opportunity will come later this year when the Terps face the meat of their Big Ten schedule.

But this week, Maryland (1-0) will be a decided favorite as it travels to struggling Charlotte (0-2), which has already seen its top two quarterbacks go down with injuries.

On Saturday, the only concern for the Terps might be overconfidence.

“The team you watch on tape isn’t necessarily the team you’ll see on Saturday,” Locksley said. “This is a team that doesn’t have anything to lose, so we’ll get their best.”

Maryland wasn’t at its best in a 31-10 opening-game win over Buffalo, but it didn’t need to be. The biggest positive was the success of running backs Roman Hemby (seven carries, 114 yards) and Antwain Littleton (six carries, 34 yards), who scored two touchdowns apiece.

Charlotte is coming off a humbling 41-24 defeat at home to William & Mary, its first loss to an FCS opponent since 2017.

Third-string quarterback Xavier Williams gave Charlotte a lift with a 67-yard touchdown run, after directing two other scoring drives in the second quarter, as the 49ers rallied to take the lead. But the fourth quarter was all William & Mary.

In a 43-13 opening-game defeat at Florida Atlantic, the Niners lost veteran quarterback Chris Reynolds, who Charlotte coach Will Healy has called a potential conference player of the year, to an upper-body injury.

Then against William & Mary, backup quarterback James Foster suffered an injury to his throwing hand.

Healy isn’t letting on who will be available on Saturday.

“This is a massive opportunity for our university to host this game,” Healy said. “I hate how we’re rolling into it. But I know our guys have worked their rear end off to make sure it’s a difficult place to play.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 29, 2021; New York, NY, USA; Maryland Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa (3) rolls out in the first half during the 2021 Pinstripe Bowl against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Underdog Buffalo preparing for Maryland’s passing attack

A major point of emphasis in the offseason for Buffalo coach Maurice Linguist was explosive plays — both how to create them and how to stop them.

When heavy underdog Buffalo of the MAC travels to Maryland of the Big Ten in both teams’ season opener Saturday in College Park, Md., the Bulls will get a rigorous test of the latter.

Coming off a year in which he set single-season program records in passing yards (3,860), accuracy (69.2 percent) and touchdowns (26), Terps quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is primed to improve on those numbers.

He will operate an offense that returns nearly intact, including his top two receivers Rakim Jarrett (62 catches, 829 yards) and Dontay Demus Jr. (28 catches, 507 yards).

“The plan they put together … is a very vertical passing attack,” Linguist said. “They can stretch the field horizontally as well.”

In his fourth season at Maryland, Mike Locksley is looking to take another step forward. The Terps went 7-6 last year and are looking to make noise in the Big Ten after another strong year of recruiting.

“The most improved unit on our team is our offensive line,” Locksley said. “I like our young running backs, the power that they run (with) as well as the different skill sets they all bring.”

Achieving that against the strong front seven of Buffalo, led by linebacker James Patterson and tackle Daymond Williams, won’t be easy.

Coming off a 4-8 season, which was Linguist’s first as a head coach, Buffalo also is looking to make more big plays on offense. To that end, Linguist has named Rutgers transfer Cole Snyder the quarterback over incumbent Matt Myers.

In three seasons at Rutgers, Snyder appeared in nine games, throwing one touchdown pass. He’ll have a quality wideout to throw to in Quian Williams, who had 64 catches for 835 yards last year.

Buffalo has only three starters back on offense but the unit is an unknown quantity as several transfers from Power 5 conference schools, in addition to Snyder, will take over starting spots.

Last year’s top rusher Dylan McDuffie (1,049 yards) transferred to Georgia Tech, leaving Ron Cook Jr. as the top backfield threat.

This will be the first meeting of the programs.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Maryland Terrapins tight end Corey Dyches (84) celebrates his touchdown with quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa (3) during the second half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland, Virginia Tech rekindle rivalry at Pinstripe Bowl

Two former Atlantic Coast Conference foes will face off for the first time since 2013 in the Pinstripe Bowl on Wednesday, as Maryland takes on Virginia Tech at Yankee Stadium in New York.

Maryland (6-6) left the ACC for the Big Ten after the 2013 season and hasn’t seen the Hokies (6-6) since. The Terps are 16-15 all-time against Virginia Tech.

This is the first time Maryland has gone to a bowl game since 2016. The Terps beat Rutgers 40-16 in their regular-season finale to reach .500 and become bowl-eligible. Maryland hasn’t won a bowl game since the 2010 Military Bowl.

As he has done all season, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa led Maryland’s offense in that win over the Scarlet Knights, completing 21 of 30 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns. Tagovailoa finished the season with 24 scores through the air and led the Big Ten in pass completions with 308. He also set three program passing records at Maryland.

“It is definitely going to be a challenge to defend the pass against them,” Virginia Tech’s Chamarri Conner said. “But, as a defensive back, that’s what we look forward to. It will be exciting to see if we can stop them.”

For third-year Maryland coach Mike Locksley, he’s putting extra value on the bonus practices the Terps are getting. He’ll aim to use those to prepare for next season.

“The teams that typically go to bowls have a better chance next year to go because of how they’re able to develop with these extra practices,” Locksley said. “We cannot put a price tag on how valuable these are for us.”

The bowl game marks a period of transition for Virginia Tech. Former coach Justin Fuente was fired in November after a 5-5 start in his sixth season. Two weeks later, the Hokies announced the hiring of Brent Pry, Penn State’s former defensive coordinator who was an assistant at Virginia Tech early in his career.

But leading the Hokies in this game will be interim coach J.C. Price, a Virginia Tech graduate who coached the Hokies’ defensive line this past season. He finished the regular season 1-1, getting Virginia Tech bowl-eligible for the 34th time by beating rival Virginia in the regular season finale.

Price will be retained as the coaching staff transitions to Pry’s new regime, and he has focused on development in his practices leading up to the game.

“We wanted to make sure these guys enjoy the bowl experience. It is (a) reward,” Price said. “So, we basically cut things down. We had limited individual time. But I also expressed to them that there’s a certain amount of work you need to put in to win the game. And we have done that.”

The Hokies will be a bit shorthanded in the bowl game. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister has entered the transfer portal after starting in all 12 games for Virginia Tech this season. Also opting out of playing in the bowl for Virginia Tech is defensive end Amare Barno and wide receiver Tre Turner.

Fellow pass-catcher Tayvion Robinson has also entered the transfer portal, leaving the Hokies a bit thin in offensive weapons against Maryland, which put up 437.4 yards of total offense per-game this season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA;  Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive linemen Esezi Otomewo (9) celebrates a stop against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on fourth down during the fourth quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota bulldozes Maryland, 34-16

Minnesota racked up 326 rushing yards and four different players scored touchdowns on the ground in a breezy 34-16 victory over Maryland on Saturday in Minneapolis.

Redshirt freshman Ky Thomas led the Golden Gophers’ attack with 139 yards on 21 carries. True freshman Mar’Keise Irving ran for 105 yards on 15 attempts and Bryce Williams added 48 yards on 13 touches.

The one-sided battle marked the third straight win for Minnesota (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) and the third straight loss for Maryland (4-3, 1-3).

The Golden Gophers gained 26 first downs and didn’t punt till 5:09 left in the game. They had 175 rushing yards in the first half alone, with Thomas surpassing the century mark by halftime. Quarterback Tanner Morgan wasn’t asked to do much; he finished 8-for-12 for 125 passing yards.

Taulia Tagovailoa went 17-for-27 for 189 passing yards and a touchdown in the Maryland offense’s feeblest showing of the season.

After the teams traded field goals in the first quarter, the Golden Gophers broke through in the second. Minnesota backup quarterback Cole Kramer entered at the end of an 86-yard drive to run in a 2-yard score.

Sticking to what was working, six of the seven plays on Minnesota’s next drive were runs. Thomas was the ultimate benefactor, scoring from 10 yards out to make it 17-3.

Tagovailoa’s 43-yard completion to Marcus Fleming helped the Terrapins get going on the ensuing drive. It resulted in Tayon Fleet-Davis sidestepping his way through the red zone for a 13-yard touchdown to cut into the deficit.

Minnesota settled for a field goal attempt at the end of the half rather than trying one shot toward the end zone. Maryland’s Tarheeb Still blocked the kick to keep the score 17-10 at halftime.

Still, the Terrapins’ defense kept allowing big gains on the ground. Williams and Irving scored Minnesota’s next two touchdowns with ease. Irving stiff-armed two defenders to the ground on an outside sweep for his 9-yard touchdown.

Minnesota chewed clock and tacked on a field goal in the fourth quarter. The Terrapins closed the scoring when Fleming snagged a one-handed catch in the end zone for an 18-yard TD in the final minutes and a 2-point conversion failed.

The Gophers posted their best rushing performance of the season despite having lost their top two running backs, Mohamed Ibrahim and Trey Potts, to season-ending injuries.

–Field Level Media