COLLEGE PARK — Maryland football coach Mike Locksley remembers Sept. 11, 2001, like it was yesterday.
Locksley, the Terps’ running backs and recruiting coordinator at the time, was in a meeting when word got out that the World Trade Center in New York had been struck. Moments later, the Pentagon was attacked. Locksley and the rest of the coaching staff dispersed to check on their families and the players, particularly Sal Aragona and Melvin Fowler, who had family in the New York area.
“From a normalization standpoint, I think we actually went out and tried to practice to just take the focus off of what was going on around us,” Locksley said. “We tried to use the practice to keep our team together.”
Before Maryland (2-0) defeated Howard, 62-0, at Capital One Field on Saturday evening on the 20th anniversary of the attacks, Locksley made sure to preach the significance 9/11 had in the Baltimore-Washington area and the entire country, as most of the players were either toddlers or not even born when it occurred.
“When [Locksley] told us the story, I just had a million questions about how everything happened,” Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa said. “Just to hear the impact it had on people around this area was crazy.”
Teams across college football honored the lives lost on 9/11 with special helmets and stickers. The Terps had commemorative helmet stickers that were designed by the players. Punter Anthony Pecorella strolled into Capital One Field wearing a New York Fire Department hat and a red bandanna tie to honor his uncle, Joesph Pecorella, a former firefighter, and his father’s friends that died at the World Trade Center.
“For us to go out there and have the opportunity to play for them, I mean it’s a blessing for me,” Tagovailoa said. “Representing them with the sticker on our helmet is very cool and it’s an honor to play.”
Less than four minutes into the game, Maryland’s offensive onslaught against Howard (0-2), a Football Championship Subdivision program, commenced. Tagovailoa threw a 14-yard pass down the middle to Dontay Demus Jr. for a touchdown, which concluded a two-minute drive. Demus finished the night with 107 receiving yards, which made him the first Maryland wideout since Stefon Diggs in 2013 to record 100 or more yards in back-to-back games.
“He’s been Mr. Consistent for us the last few years,” Locksley said. “What you see now is the dividends from the work that he’s put in this summer.”
Locksley’s goal after last week was to get more players involved on offense. The Terps had 10 receivers record a reception and six running backs get three or more carries.
Running back Tayon Fleet-Davis (eight carries for 66 yards) followed Demus’ touchdown by racing around the outside then diving into the end zone for a 17-yard score that extended the lead to 14-0.
Tagovailoa notched his second touchdown pass early in the second quarter when he faked a handoff before throwing to tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo in the back of the end zone. After Tarheeb Still’s 28-yard punt return, freshman running back Colby McDonald burst up the middle for his first career rushing touchdown.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the way Colby McDonald has picked up things and he had a great summer camp for us,” Locksley said. “Last week, he was banged up going to the West Virginia game so we didn’t play him.”
Tagovailoa continued to lay waste to Howard’s defense when he zipped the ball down the middle to sophomore wide receiver Rakim Jarrett (six catches for 67 yards) for a 36-yard touchdown. Tagovailoa went 22-for-27 with 274 yards and three touchdowns before transfer quarterback Reece Udinski entered the game with 9:28 remaining in the third quarter. Udinski, who transferred from Virginia Military Institute, recorded a touchdown pass while completing his first five passes.
Howard couldn’t get anything going on offense. Bison quarterback Quinton Williams either overthrew his intended receiver or forced a pass into tight coverage, finishing 10-for-28 with 67 yards and an interception. Howard finished the game with just 146 total yards and went 0-for-11 on third-down conversions. Maryland freshman linebacker Branden Jennings picked up four tackles in the first start of his career.
“It was actually a lot of fun not just for the starting guys but like the guys, who don’t play much get in there and show they can do,” Still said. “It’s fun seeing those guys get a chance to make opportunities in the field.”
The victory was the Terps’ first shutout since 2019, when they defeated Howard, 79-0, to kick off the Locksley-era in College Park. It’s the second time Maryland has started 2-0 in three seasons under Locksley, who is 7-12 overall and 3-11 in the Big Ten.
Friday, 9 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports 1
Radio: 105.7 FM