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Orange crush: Maryland football unstoppable early in historic 63-20 rout of No. 21 Syracuse

Ever since Maryland jumped from underdog to slight favorite going into Saturday’s home game against No. 21 Syracuse, first-year coach Mike Locksley tried to defuse any hype that followed his team’s 79-0 opening win over Howard.

“Syracuse is a team that’s won 10 games [a year ago], well-coached,” Locksley said Wednesday, comparing the Orange to his Maryland team that hadn’t beaten a ranked opponent at home since 2010. "We’re not there yet.”

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Maybe they are.

Sparked by an offense that scored touchdowns six of the seven times it touched the ball in the first half Saturday, Maryland shocked the Orange, 63-20, finishing with the most points it has ever scored against a ranked opponent. Combined with the season opener, it’s the most points the Terps have scored in back-to-back games in school history.

“We run a style of offense where the defense can’t be right unless they outexecute us,” Locksley said. “It’s hard to be right and the only time that you usually have the ability to stop it is if our execution breaks down. It’s more about us than it is about them.”

Maryland led 42-13 at halftime for the most points scored by the Terps against a Power 5 opponent since putting up 45 in the first half against North Carolina in 2003. It also matched what Maryland scored in the second half of “The Miracle in Miami” in 1984, when the Terps erased a 31-0 halftime deficit and won, 42-40, at the Orange Bowl.

Asked what worked offensively, graduate tight end Tyler Mabry summed it up succinctly.

“Honestly, everything,” said Mabry, who opened the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown catch less than three minutes in. “We’ve got weapons everywhere.”

Graduate transfer Josh Jackson completed 21 of 38 passes for 296 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Redshirt sophomore running back Anthony McFarland Jr. scored three times — two on runs and one on a catch. Junior running back Javon Leake ran for two touchdowns, including on a career-high-tying 64-yard run on the opening drive of the second half. Leake had 107 yards on just seven carries.

Unlike his debut against Howard, Jackson started fast, completing his first three passes on Maryland’s first scoring drive, seven of his first 10, and 17 of 28 for 277 yards and all three of his touchdown passes in the opening half.

“I think today what you saw out of Josh was his decision-making in the [run-pass-option] game,” Locksley said. “We’re asking him to make decisions after the ball is snapped. That’s why we picked him as our starter. He makes good decisions.”

Locksley said trying to slow the game down after building the big first-half lead might have thrown Jackson out of his rhythm.

“I do feel he sped things up, but him speeding it up is a byproduct of him being a little more comfortable in how we call the games,” Locksley said. “I thought [offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery] did a great job mixing it up and we did a great job of some of personnel groupings added in. To me, I think Josh has a little more comfort now ... and that usually allows you to play faster.”

The victory gives the Terps some momentum going into their first road game of the season, next Saturday at Temple. Last season, the Owls came to Maryland Stadium having lost their first two games. The Terps, coming off a 2-0 start including an upset of then-No. 23 Texas at FedEx Field, lost 35-14.

Asked how difficult it would be for his team to not have a letdown after its first win at Maryland Stadium over a ranked opponent since 2010, Locksley said he will use experience from his three seasons at Alabama to help him prepare the Terps.

“I just left three years of [that]. Getting focused is easy to do; how you do it on Sunday and it starts with us,” Locksley said. “I don’t think you’ll see us running around, high-fiving and celebrate this win other than for the next 24 hours and then goes back to recharging and resetting to neutral. ... Our expectation is that it will be a tough, hard-nosed game.”

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Said McFarland: “I feel like at the end of the day, we have the confidence. We always knew we had the players. We had the right coaches that believe in us, that believe we can execute every single play. At the end of the day, we’ve just got to go out there and get it done. Two weeks in a row, just keep going. ... Beating a ranked opponent in ‘The Shell.’ Ain’t nothing like it.”

Gang of Four

Just as they did in the opener against Howard, Maryland finished the game with McFarland and Leake on the bench, and with their backups, redshirt junior Jake Funk and junior Tayon Fleet-Davis, getting nearly all the carries.

Funk and Fleet-Davis, who led the Terps in rushing against the Bison with 79 yards each, did even better against Syracuse.

On one series, Fleet-Davis carried seven straight times for 58 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown. On the next, Funk carried three times with runs of 54 yards and 28 yards before scoring a 10-yard touchdown. Funk wound up with a career-high 94 yards on five carries, while Fleet-Davis added 67 on 11 carries. As a team, Maryland had 354 rushing yards and 650 yards overall.

"When you have a running back room like we have, it’s just great to finish games with guys like Tayon Fleet-Davis and Jake Funk,” said Locksley, whose team averaged 7.9 yards a carry and 7.8 yards per play overall. “Those guys were able to come in and finish the fourth quarter.”

Minus Shaq, D holds

Despite the absence of graduate transfer linebacker Shaq Smith, who sat out because of a groin injury, Maryland’s defense created two early turnovers that led to touchdowns. After Jackson’s first interception as a Terp in the second half, Maryland stopped Syracuse on three straight fourth-down plays to keep the Orange from cutting into their big lead.

“Our defense did a really good job,” Locksley said. “We gave up some explosive plays, which you don’t like to see. But when you play the type of defense we play, you’re going to give up some plays and it’s how you respond.

“It was great. Our defense gave us two early stops and then a turnover, which allowed us to put points on the board. ... We’re a team that kind of feeds off of that energy. To finish that game the way our defense finished it in the fourth quarter was good to see.”

Said senior linebacker Keandre Jones: “We have depth in that room [at linebacker], we have depth on this team. A lot younger guys that want to play helped this team out.”

Jones, who played his first three years at Ohio State, finished with a career-high eight tackles, including two of Maryland’s four sacks, and also caused a fumble. Senior safety Antoine Brooks Jr. led the Terps with nine tackles. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Ayinde Eley, a first-year starter, finished with a career-high seven tackles and recovered the fumble.

“Keandre had a big-time game for us and took up the slack,” Locksley said.

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