The high expectations for Maryland football’s offense might be warranted.
Heading into the 2022 season, the combination of star quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, a dynamic receiving corps that welcomed back Dontay Demus Jr. after last year’s knee injury and a veteran offensive line that features potential NFL draft pick Jaelyn Duncan generated buzz that the Terps could have one of the best offenses in the Big Ten.
In Saturday’s season opener, it didn’t take long for that talent to show up. Tagovailoa threw for 290 yards and the Terps’ running game led by redshirt freshman Roman Hemby powered a 31-10 victory over Buffalo at Capital One Field.
After the departure of Tayon Fleet-Davis, coach Mike Locksley said he planned to use three to four running backs this season, riding with whoever had the hot hand. In Maryland’s 12th straight season-opening nonconference win, Hemby delivered. The former John Carroll standout rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.
After junior receiver Rakim Jarrett’s 25-yard gain on a jet sweep and Jeshaun Jones’ 14-yard reception, Hemby ran 33 yards while slipping past a pair of defenders for a touchdown, capping off a five-play, 73-second scoring drive that gave Maryland a 7-0 lead in the opening minutes of the first quarter.
Maryland’s offense remained quiet until the start of the second quarter, when running back Antwain Littleton II bulldozed a pair of Buffalo defenders for a 21-yard gain before powering into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown, extending the Terps’ lead to 14-0 with 12:14 left.
After taking a 17-7 lead into halftime, the Terps started the third quarter with a bang. On second-and-5, Hemby burst up the middle for a 70-yard score — the longest rushing touchdown by a Terps player since 2019 — to give Maryland a 24-7 lead.
The Terps accumulated a combined 149 rushing yards and four touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards per attempt.
After Tagovailoa rewrote the school’s record book in 2021, setting program benchmarks in passing yards (3,860), completions (328) and completion percentage (.692), his performance against an overmatched Bulls team was inconsistent.
The Alabama transfer finished 24-for-34 with 290 yards, but he threw an interception and tossed a handful of sloppy passes, sometimes putting his receivers in bad situations.
During Maryland’s final drive of the second quarter, Tagovailoa threw a pair of incomplete passes to Jarrett and Demus, who were both sandwiched by Buffalo defenders.
Tagovailoa also lacked touch on his deep throws. In the first quarter, Tagovailoa underthrew sophomore receiver Tai Felton, but Bulls defensive back Elijah Blades was called for roughing the passer. When the Terps faced a third-and-13 with under 11 minutes left in the third quarter, Tagovailoa’s pass down the middle soared over redshirt sophomore tight end Corey Dyches before being intercepted by Buffalo safety Marcus Fuqua.
The junior quarterback did manage to spread the ball around, however, connecting with nine receivers. Jarrett led the way with six catches for 110 yards, including a 35-yard reception that set up Littleton’s second rushing touchdown with 13:49 left in the fourth quarter.
Jones, who suffered a season-ending leg injury last season, tallied 70 yards on four receptions, while sophomore tight end CJ Dippre finished with three catches for 30 yards. In his first game back from a knee injury suffered Oct. 1 against Iowa, Demus has three catches for 23 yards.
This story will be updated.
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