Maryland football rallies in fourth quarter to beat SMU, 34-27, move to 3-0

COLLEGE PARK — In so many ways, Maryland football’s 34-27 victory over SMU on Saturday night at Capital One Field served as a perfect depiction of what makes this team great and what will hold it back against Big Ten Conference competition.

The Terps’ offense dazzled, totaling 439 yards behind impressive performances by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and running back Roman Hemby. Tagovailoa, a redshirt junior, finished 17-for-23 with 214 yards and two touchdowns, while Hemby, a redshirt freshman, rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and caught four passes for 62 yards.


Both sides of the ball delivered in a pivotal fourth quarter to lead the Terps to a 3-0 start for the second straight season. After sophomore safety Dante Trader Jr. picked off SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai with 12:19 remaining, Tagovailoa threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore tight end Corey Dyches to give Maryland a 34-27 lead with 7:30 to go.

But to get to the point where the home crowd erupted after Tagovailoa’s touchdown pass, then grew louder after Mordecai’s pass to Rashee Rice on fourth-and-1 fell incomplete with 49 seconds left, you might have needed an aspirin.


Maryland committed 14 penalties for 151 yards, with most of them coming in crucial situations. Tai Felton fumbled a kickoff return that led to an SMU field goal. Starting linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II exited with an unspecified injury. And despite the interceptions from Trader (McDonogh) and junior safety Beau Brade (River Hill), the Terps’ secondary looked shaky, allowing Mordecai to throw for 369 yards and four touchdowns while Rice continued his recent tear with 193 yards on 11 catches.

“We did not play our best football today,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley said. “But I got a lot of respect for the way our guys fought and the resiliency they show being down.”

Penalties have been a major problem for the Terps, and it was evident against the Mustangs. Maryland was penalized five times in the first half, all coming in crucial situations. The Terps’ offensive line picked up three false starts, all on third or fourth down, while Jones was called for a blindside block that negated Tagovailoa’s 13-yard scramble late in the second quarter.

But the Terps’ first drive of the third quarter, in which they were penalized four times, was perhaps the most frustrating of the night. Tagovailoa’s 6-yard touchdown pass to redshirt senior Jeshaun Jones with 12:14 to go was nullified by a holding penalty, and an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Jones backed the Terps up to the 31-yard line. Tagovailoa scrambled for 8 yards on third-and-goal, but Maryland was forced to settle for a 41-yard field goal by graduate transfer kicker Chad Ryland that tied the game at 20.

Midway through the third quarter, Mordecai made Maryland pay for its mistakes when he threw his third touchdown pass of the night, a 7-yard completion to Moochie Dixon, to give SMU a 27-20 advantage with 6:42 left.

“My rule is that we don’t talk to the other team or the officials,” Locksley said. “When you get a penalty for throwing the ball at a guy’s face or responding because a guy stepped on your foot on purpose, you got to show maturity.”

Maryland’s egregious amount of penalties could’ve ruined an inspiring night, yet the Terps showed enough discipline to improve to 9-1 in nonconference games under Locksley.

After Dixon’s touchdown catch, Hemby broke loose for a 34-yard gain before making a 14-yard reception to close out the third quarter. The former John Carroll standout would start the fourth by marching into the end zone for a 1-yard score to tie the game at 27.


Mordecai tested Maryland’s secondary early, starting 8-for-16 for 116 yards. However, Maryland made a pair of stops on third down, forcing the Mustangs to settle for 27- and 43-yard field goals to take a 6-3 lead. Even after Mordecai threw a 51-yard touchdown to RJ Maryland to give SMU a 13-3 lead in the second, the Terps answered with an 11-play, 65-yard scoring drive that ended with running back Antwain Littleton II leaping into the end zone for a 1-yard score that cut the deficit to 13-10 with under six minutes remaining in the first half.

After Brade’s interception with 4:46 to go, Jarrett caught a 48-yard touchdown pass for a 17-13 advantage.

“We didn’t play to our standard for the entire game,” Hemby said. “But we came up with a win at the end of the day, and we will get it cleaned up.”

But ultimately, Tagovailoa showcased his ability to handle clutch situations. Facing fourth-and-9 at the SMU 45-yard line with 10:55 to go, he found Dyches over the middle, and the tight end fought through a tackle to pick up the first down. After five straight carries by Hemby moved the Terps to the Mustangs’ 5, Tagovailoa faked a handoff, rolled left and flipped a short pass to Dyches, who corralled it with one hand and dove into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

“It shows that in clutch moments that we stepped up to the plate and didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot,” said Brade, who totaled 15 tackles and a forced fumble in the third quarter that stopped a promising SMU drive in the red zone. “But 15 [penalties] is a lot so we got to figure that out.”

NOTE: Maryland junior cornerback Tarheeb Still played Saturday after missing last week’s win over Charlotte due to a cut finger. Locksley said Tuesday that Still had surgery to repair a tendon in his finger after a “freak accident” in the locker room and would not play. Still was not listed on the team’s depth chart before the game.



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