COLLEGE PARK, Maryland (AP) – Maryland coach Michael Locksley has seen his team play mostly clean football in their first two games.
Then the Terrapins made it difficult in last week’s win over Illinois.
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“If there was something that I was most proud of – until this last game – it was that we didn’t return it and we didn’t have a lot of penalties,” said Locksley. “For me, to be a good offense starts with not fighting first.”
Maryland will look to regain that flawless pace on Saturday when the undefeated Terps host Kent State in their final non-conference game of the regular season. After this weekend, Maryland’s next two games will be against Iowa and Ohio State, two teams that can punish the types of mistakes the Terrapins made last week.
Maryland (3-0) won their first game against West Virginia in large part because they forced four turnovers. The next game against Howard was a blowout. Then the Terps fumbled twice in the second half against Illinois. Maryland also had one touchdown canceled due to a penalty.
The Terrapins won 20-17 because quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and his receivers were able to perform under pressure, but there is plenty of room for improvement this weekend.
Kent State (1-2) has already faced tough trials. The Golden Flashes lost to Texas A&M and Iowa by a combined 71-17, although their deficit was single-digit at halftime in each of those games.
Kent State coach Sean Lewis looked like Locksley when he spoke about the importance of avoiding mistakes.
“The fundamentals and the safety of the ball, as boring as that may be. It’s like a chocolate milkshake – it works,” Lewis said. “When it’s done right, it’s done right. take care of the football, and have good technique and fundamentals.Nobody needs to put on their Superman cape.
NEAR THE TOP
Tagovailoa is averaging 319 passing yards per game, the Big Ten’s second-best mark. He completed 75.5% of his passes, with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
Tagovailoa has 956 passing yards, the most by a Maryland player in the first three games of the season since Scott Milanovich had 1,109 in 1993.
AT THE TOP
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Dontay Demus of Maryland leads the league with 113 yards per game. His teammate Rakim Jarrett is 86 years old and ranks fifth.
While Maryland has a deep receiving body, Kent State leans on its running game, which averaged 283 yards last year. The Golden Flashes ran for 226 yards against Texas A&M.
Running backs Marquez Cooper and Xavier Williams and quarterback Dustin Crum have all run over 100 yards this season. Kent State is averaging 266 rushing yards per game in 2021 and 5.4 yards per carry.
IN THE BACKGROUND
Sam Okuayinonu of Maryland has four sacks in the first three games. As a team, the Terrapins have 11, including six against Illinois.
The Terps have been especially strong defensively the past two games, although Illinois have lost 8 of 17 in third place.
“We didn’t come off the field on the third try, which I think got them 27 more games,” said Locksley.
A win this weekend would give Maryland their first 4-0 start since 2016.
“It’s about dealing with adversity. I feel like this team has been able to do it so far, ”said wide receiver Jeshaun Jones. “We have to continue to build, to work on this, because we are going to be in more difficult situations.”
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