Maryland breaks losing skid with 48-7 win over Rutgers, but loses QB Josh Jackson to ankle injury

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at The Baltimore Sun.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Maryland came to SHI Stadium on Saturday looking to get healthy emotionally against Rutgers after two straight defeats and hoping to not suffer any more key injuries after going into the game starting three redshirt freshmen on the offensive line.

The Terps were successful on the first part, beating the hapless Scarlet Knights, 48-7. Unfortunately for first-year coach Mike Locksley and his depth-challenged team, Maryland watched graduate transfer quarterback Josh Jackson leave the game late in the first half with what Locksley called a high ankle sprain.


Locksley called the victory a “great bounce-back win for us, much needed” after the 59-0 pounding the Terps took from No. 12 Penn State at Maryland Stadium eight days earlier. But he was not pleased with the offensive inconsistency that produced four straight three-and-outs that were sandwiched between three quick touchdown drives.

"I would have liked to see us not start off slow and not be what I call ‘big-little,’ where we would hit explosive plays and then have a series of three-and-outs. We just need to be a little more consistent,” Locksley said. “Give Rutgers credit for how they played in the first half. We were able to get some things adjusted.”


Said junior running back Javon Leake, who scored three touchdowns: “Just to get our confidence back a little bit, this game was big for us. ... I just feel like we’ve got to get that momentum back that we had the first two weeks. We just tried to make a lot of big plays together and get back on that train and keep it rolling.”

The injury to Jackson came with Maryland (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) holding a 27-7 lead with less than a minute left before halftime. With the ball at his team’s 41-yard line, Jackson went back to pass and had his right leg sandwiched between two Rutgers defenders. He remained on the ground for several minutes, was helped off the field and then was carted to the locker room at halftime.

Jackson, who last season at Virginia Tech broke his left leg in the third game of the season, returned to the sideline on crutches with his lower leg in a protective boot. His status for next Saturday’s game at Purdue isn’t known, though redshirt junior Tyrrell Pigrome, who replaced Jackson, is likely to start against the Boilermakers.

Asked if he considered having Jackson kneel instead of trying to score at that stage of the first half, Locksley said, “Take a knee with three timeouts? You would have wore me out if I walked in here and took a knee with three timeouts. I think we had two timeouts. ... We were trying to execute to get it in field-goal range to try to score points before the half.”

Before getting hurt, Jackson had seemingly regained some of the rhythm he had lost since leading the Terps to one-sided wins over Howard (79-0) and then-No. 21 Syracuse (63-20). Starting with an 80-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. on the first play from scrimmage, Jackson finished 9-for-16 for 179 yards and two touchdowns.

Pigrome completed 13 of 18 passes for 111 yards. Leake scored three touchdowns on runs of 42 and 12 yards, and added a 100-yard kickoff return to open the second half. Redshirt sophomore running back Anthony McFarland Jr. also scored twice, including an 80-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

“Piggy was prepared to play in this game,” Locksley said. “We were going to give Josh every opportunity and I was pleased with how Josh played early in the game, which is why he stayed in there. Piggy took 50% of the reps [in practice last week]. Again, going into the game, our thinking was if Josh were to struggle, we would have to make a change to kind of get us going because this was a game we needed to win.”

Said Pigrome: “I just tried to do my best and fill his shoes and do the best I can and try to come out with a victory.”


Scoring quickly

Of Maryland’s seven touchdowns, four came on one-play drives, one came on a three-play drive and another came on the 100-yard kickoff return.

Aside from Demus’ career-long 80-yard catch and run on a career-long touchdown pass from Jackson, junior running back Tayon Fleet-Davis set up his 23-yard touchdown run to break a 7-7 tie with a 50-yard catch and run after McFarland had gained a yard on first down.

Leake then followed up with a 42-yard touchdown run on the first play of Maryland’s next series. McFarland scored on a 2-yard run that was set up by a 39-yard interception return to the Rutgers 2 by redshirt sophomore Ayinde Eley. After Leake’s 100-yard kickoff return, McFarland outran the defense down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play of the following possession.

“To me, it’s a byproduct of the skill we have,” Locksley said. “We have some big-play running backs. You saw that in Leake’s kickoff return and his long touchdown run. You saw it in Ant. He still isn’t 100% healthy with his ankle [sprain]. Fleet[-Davis] made some plays out in space during one drive. We do have really good skill players. What we’ve got to do is continue to find ways to get them the ball in space.”

Leake knows Locksley would like longer, more sustained drives, but added, “When opportunity comes, you’ve got to take it. Today I felt we did a good job of taking advantage of our opportunities.”

Rutgers fell to 1-4 (0-3 Big Ten) with its 15th straight conference loss.


Young line plays well

With sophomore right tackle Marcus Minor (dislocated toe) and junior center Johnny Jordan (foot injury) joining senior right guard Terrance Davis (sprained knee) on the sideline, Austin Fontaine and Spencer Anderson started with fellow redshirt freshman Jaelyn Duncan and fifth-year seniors Ellis McKennie (McDonogh) and Sean Christie on the offensive line.

Though it took a while for Maryland to get its offense on track after the long touchdown pass to Demus, Locksley seemed pleased with the line’s overall performance. The Terps ran for 200 yards and four touchdowns, and passed for 290 yards and Jackson’s two touchdowns. In the first half, the big plays allowed Maryland to take a big lead despite having the ball for a little over seven minutes.

“With those young guys, when you’re used to seeing things on film, it takes a minute or two to get the adjustments,” Locksley said. “We’re playing with some new guys up front, who I thought did a good job taking some of the adjustments.”

Because of the big lead, Locksley was able to rest Christie in the fourth quarter and get another redshirt freshman, Evan Gregory, into the game.

“We’re trying to develop our team, and we wanted to get [Gregory] into the game, and get him some meaningful minutes just like we put some of the young tight ends in,” Locksley said. “We’re a developmental program and we’re in year one of laying a foundation. It’s going to be real important with the way our injuries have hit that we continue to find ways to develop our players when we have the opportunity to.”

Asked about playing with so many young offensive linemen, McKennie said, “It’s just another challenge for us. Those guys are physically gifted. I’ve got to give them such a pat on the back what they did today. They came out on the field, three 18, 19 year olds and won a Big Ten football game.”



Saturday, noon

TV: BTN Radio: 105.7 FM