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Terps

Three takeaways from Maryland football’s 37-0 win over Rutgers

COLLEGE PARK — Around his neck, in increasing quantity, Taulia Tagovailoa’s family members hung leis. They weighed him down, one after the other, some decorated with the traditional flower garlands while others included candy or money.

Tagovailoa estimated he received 30 leis after Maryland’s 37-0 regular-season-ending win against Rutgers. He had more family in College Park than usual, including his two younger sisters, who surprised him when they arrived for their first game this season.

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In his native Hawaii, the final game of the season is cause for celebration. So in College Park, after Tagovailoa threw his program-record 50th career touchdown pass as he led Maryland to its seventh win, he received lei after lei.

“It’s kind of like a graduation after the game,” said Tagovailoa, a redshirt junior. “It’s kind of our love language of supporting me.”

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Behind Tagovailoa, the Terps bucked a three-game losing streak and enter a waiting period before learning their bowl game assignment. The next month will include recruiting visits for coach Mike Locksley and his staff, as well as necessary healing for Tagovailoa and others. That’s all on the horizon.

In the foreground, though, was Maryland’s most complete performance of the season. Here are three takeaways from the dominant victory.

Defensive execution

In some ways, Saturday felt like practice for Ahmad McCullough. Sure, the crowd at SECU Stadium was a reminder that Saturday very much counted in Maryland’s win-loss record, but with five Rutgers three-and-outs forced in the first half en route to the first shutout of a Big Ten opponent, McCullough couldn’t help but lean forward in his seat and smile at how the game unfolded.

“This week of practice, it was emphasizing communication, knowing what we had to do,” McCullough said. “And we showed it out there. … It was just so thrilling knowing all the hard work in the week of practice is actually shown. It’s so much gratification that you can really see and feel.”

The domineering performance came against one of the Big Ten’s bottom feeders, a Rutgers team with just one win in the conference this year. But after uneven performances against Penn State and Wisconsin, Locksley appreciated most how that unit carried over the energy it showed against Ohio State into a matchup with a lesser foe.

Maryland finished the game having allowed seven first downs and 135 yards — the fewest yards the Terps have allowed to an FBS opponent since 2001.

“It wasn’t a big scheme thing, it wasn’t something we went in saying, here’s the special things we have to do,” Locksley said. “It was just about doing simple, better.”

Maryland wide receiver Jeshaun Jones, right, makes a catch en route to scoring a touchdown during the second half Saturday against Rutgers. Jones finished with nine catches for 152 yards.

A career day

On the other end of Tagovailoa’s record-setting touchdown pass was wide receiver Jeshaun Jones, who said the ball was sitting in his locker still.

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To get there, Jones exploded onto the scene in his first college game with three touchdowns, endured two surgeries to repair torn ACLs and returned to post a career day in what could be his final performance in College Park. Jones said he hasn’t put thought into what comes next. Locksley said one of his major offseason goals will be to convince Jones to return.

But whatever does unfold, it will include a nine-catch, 152-yard display from Jones, who dazzled as part of a receiving corps that missed Rakim Jarrett (knee). Jones can admit there were low moments during his time in College Park — tearing his ACL during preseason camp in 2019 and doing so again midway through 2021.

“Especially last year, I thought I was starting to get into the groove of things,” Jones said. “I got hurt again and it was kind of frustrating. But I wouldn’t say I didn’t think this would happen. I feel like I’m very confident in myself and I felt like this could happen, and I’m glad it did.”

What pleased Jones most was remaining healthy for all 12 games this season. With his big day Saturday, Jones is now the leading Maryland receiver (478 yards and four touchdowns). Maybe there’s more left for Jones with Maryland. But if there isn’t?

“I just wanted to leave it all out there,” Jones said. “I wanted to leave my mark.”

Maryland coach Mike Locksley, right, shakes hands with Rutgers coach Greg Schiano after the Terps' 37-0 win Saturday.

Another year of Locksley

By reaching a seventh regular-season win, Locksley’s contract extends one year to 2027. It’s Maryland’s highest regular-season win total since 2014, yet Locksley is adamant there’s more to come from the program.

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“I’m here for the long haul,” Locksley said. “This is where I’ve always wanted to be. … Anybody that has watched the trajectory of our program sees the improvement. We’re not there yet, as I like to keep saying. We’re a few players away, a couple plays away, and it’s my job to go get those players and to create those plays so we can take another step as we build a championship program.”


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