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Maryland wins coach Mike Locksley’s first game in record fashion, routing Howard, 79-0

Maryland defensive back Lavonte Gater, left, and running back Tayon Fleet-Davis dance with teammates after they defeated Howard 79-0 in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Maryland defensive back Lavonte Gater, left, and running back Tayon Fleet-Davis dance with teammates after they defeated Howard 79-0 in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)

For awhile Mike Locksley’s debut as Maryland’s coach looked a lot like former coach DJ Durkin’s first game three years ago. It was the same opponent, and like the 39-point rout over Howard in 2016, it was over pretty quickly.

It then went from humbling for Howard to nearly historic, at least statistically, for the home team.

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Helped by terrific field position for much of the first half – largely because of some shaky punting by Bison punter Isaiah Moore – the Terps scored eight touchdowns by halftime and rolled to a 79-0 victory over the overmatched Bison at Maryland Stadium.

Maryland's coach Mike Locksley talks about the 79-0 win over the Howard Bison's in College Park, Maryland.

After breaking the school record for points in a half with 56, the Terps fell one point shy of equaling Maryland’s single-game scoring record in an 80-0 shutout of Washington College in 1927. It was also Maryland’s first shutout since 2013 when they defeated West Virginia, 28-0, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Locksley said he wasn’t aware of his team being on the verge of breaking the record for points when a 49-yard run by senior Jake Funk set up first-and-goal at the Howard 4-yard line with a little over five minutes left. Funk had scored earlier on a 24-yard run.

What was of concern to Locksley was not making it look like the Terps were trying to run up the score on the Bison and first-year coach Ron Prince, which is why Locksley opted not to finish the game with a chip-shot field goal.

“I talked to Ron after the game, he understood we weren’t trying to run the score up,” Locksley said. "We respect the game. We have respect the way it should be played. But we also have to develop our team.

“We feel good about our [starters] and it was great to get so many young players some meaningful minutes for us to be able to coach ‘em up because we’ll need some of these guys as the year goes on. ... I had no idea about 79, 80. I just knew I didn’t want us to score again.”

The Terps had scored plenty.

Playing in his first game since transferring from Virginia Tech this summer, redshirt junior quarterback Josh Jackson competed 15 of 24 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. caught three passes for 100 yards and the first two touchdowns of his career.

Nine Maryland players — including third-string quarterback Tyler DeSue and two tight ends, graduate transfer Tyler Mabry and sophomore Chigoziem Okonkwo — scored touchdowns. The Terps piled up 623 yards in Scottie Montgomery’s first game as offensive coordinator.

Maryland's wide receiver Dontay Demus, Jr., caught three passes and two touchdowns to lead the Terps to a 79-0 win over Howard.

Perhaps more impressive was a defense that limited Howard to just 68 yards, and frustrated senior quarterback Caylin Newton, the younger brother of Carolina Panthers’ star Cam Newton and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference preseason player of the year.

Newton completed just 3 of 11 passes for just 23 yards before being pulled by Prince in the second quarter. Maryland held the Bison to just one first down in the opening half - on a pass interference call - and four for the game.

“I thought we executed really well,” Locksley said of the defense.“Going into the game, our philosophy again on the defensive side of the ball is we want to be aggressive and we’re going to attack. ... Anytime you get a shutout, that’s kudos to the defense because those are hard to come by.”

Poise and touch

Playing for the first time since breaking his left leg in Virginia Tech’s third game last season, Jackson was under pressure early on and misfired on his first three passes, including under throwing Demus for what would have been a long gain on Maryland’s opening drive.

But after completing only three of his first eight passes, Jackson hit on five of his next six, including touchdowns to Demus and Okonkwo. Locksley said that getting some extra blockers to counter Howard’s non-stop blitzing helped Jackson find his rhythm.

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“The touchdowns were cool and everything, but I was just glad that we could go out and get a victory for our first game, and the way we did it — 79 points is pretty awesome,” said Jackson, the first Maryland quarterback to throw four touchdowns in his debut since Mark Manges in 1975.

The only complaint from Locksley was that Jackson is “almost too cool” in the pocket and needs to get the ball out quicker, pointing to his under-thrown pass to Demus, who made a double move to get open, as an example.

“He’s right, I definitely play a calm game,” Jackson said. “Sometimes I need to speed up. They harp on me a little bit. I’ll get better.”

New deep threat

After losing sophomore wide receiver Jeshaun Jones with a torn ACL in preseason camp, there was some question as to who would replace him as the playmaker and deep threat.

The answer could be Demus, who showed both his hands in catching a pass from Jackson that was thrown slightly behind him and turning it into a 26-yard touchdown in the first quarter and his speed with a 62-yard catch-and-run on a nicely thrown ball from backup quarterback Tyrelle Pigrome in the second quarter.

“There’s a lot of us out there, all of us are playmakers. That’s what we feed off,” said Demus, who caught 13 passes for 278 yards as a freshman. "Jeshaun going down helps us move better. We’re out there playing for him, play for all our brothers.”

Asked how he can build off the performance, Demus said, “Just stack games on top of each other and keep moving forward having great games.”

Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to Tyler Mabry during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Howard, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to Tyler Mabry during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Howard, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)
Special teams were special

Special teams also had a good day for the Terps. Senior DJ Turner ran back a punt return for a 40-yard touchdown – the first punt return for a touchdown since 2016. Freshman Levante Gater blocked a punt by Moore in the end zone in the third quarter, resulting in a safety.

Moore had a particularly tough afternoon. Fittingly, it seemed, his career-best 72-yard punt trickled into the end zone for a touchback.

Aside from having one punt blocked, he had a 14-yard punt to set up Demus’ first touchdown and was tackled at his team’s 13-yard line to set up Maryland’s second score, the first of two short touchdown runs by redshirt sophomore Anthony McFarland Jr.

Saving something for Syracuse

If there was one disappointment for the Terps offensively, it was that the rebuilt offensive line had trouble early protecting Jackson, who made several throws under pressure, or opening holes for running McFarland (six carries for 18 yards) and junior Javon Leake (three carries for 23 carries).

Maryland did much better running the ball in the second with Funk and junior Tayon Fleet-Davis. Funk, who missed most of last season with a variety of injuries, and Fleet-Davis, who showed flashes last season, each finished with 79 yards, most of them coming after halftime.

It is also possible that Locksley and Montgomery didn’t want to put too many of the plays designed for their two top running backs on tape for No. 22 Syracuse, which plays the Terps on Saturday at Maryland Stadium in what will certainly be more telling than the season opener.

Locksley said it had more to do with the fact that Howard was forcing Maryland to throw early by loading up on McFarland, who broke LaMont Jordan’s freshman rushing record with 1,034 yards. McFarland did have two short touchdown runs.

Asked if he is concerned about protecting Jackson’s blind side with left tackles Ellis McKennie [McDonogh] and Jaelyn Duncan [St. Frances], Locksley said, "It wasn’t concerning. It wasn’t because we didn’t block 'em, it’s because we didn’t have enough people to block 'em.

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“They brought [constant] pressure and going into this game, we weren’t aware of what they would be [defensively]. And that’s why we talked about adjusting was going to be really big. So we made the adjustments after the first series ... and we were able to make some big plays on the perimeter."

SYRACUSE@MARYLAND

Saturday, noon

TV: ESPN or ESPN2

Radio: 105.7 FM

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