Before his 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Maryland’s 35-19 rout of Penn State, junior middle linebacker Chance Campbell remembers the last time he reached the end zone: Nov. 23, 2017, when he scored twice as a running back in Calvert Hall’s 27-6 victory over Loyola Blakefield in the 98th Turkey Bowl.
But the Towson resident said he doesn’t envision joining the offense anytime soon. “They definitely don’t want me having the ball in my hands in college,” he quipped.
As self-deprecating as Campbell is, that play was significant for the Terps (2-1). It gave the team a 35-7 advantage early in the third quarter and shut the door on any hope of a Nittany Lions comeback.
Campbell credited defensive coordinator Jon Hoke with organizing drills in practice to help defensive players get accustomed to trying to recover fumbles in traffic or open space.
“I kind of got knocked around a little bit early in the play, got up, and had a pretty good view that there was a lot of green grass,” he said. “So I kind of planned on picking it up. I wanted to make sure that I positioned myself towards the sideline so that I didn’t fumble it and kick it out of bounds. And then my teammates led a pretty good convoy.”
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Campbell leads all defensive players in the Big Ten in solo tackles (17) and ranks second in total stops (34). He also leads Maryland in tackles for loss (4½) and has 1½ sacks.
Coach Mike Locksley called Campbell “a huge bright spot” on a defense that had been one of the worst in the conference prior to Saturday’s win.
“He’s made a ton of plays for us, which in our scheme and the position that he plays, the middle linebacker is kind of the quarterback of our defense,” Locksley said. “He’s one of those guys that brings the juice every day. He’s reckless with his body, plays with great effort, passion, all of the pillars that we have in our program. He represents them the way he plays the game and prepares. So it’s good to see him show and lead by example, especially with a young team, and it’s great to have him on our side and doing great things.
"He played a big-time game last week, scoring on defense, which I thought was a huge momentum play for us to kind of put the nail in the coffin for that game.”
Rakim Jarrett is not the only true freshman to have made a quick first impression.
Cornerback Tarheeb Still has started all three games, leading the defense in pass breakups with four and ranking second in solo tackles with 12. Backup middle linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II sacked Penn State redshirt junior quarterback Sean Clifford twice in the Terps’ win on Saturday, becoming the first freshman to finish with two sacks in a game since Andre Monroe against Wake Forest on Nov. 19, 2011.
And Jarrett caught five pass for 144 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, becoming the first true freshman wide receiver to post 100 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions in a game since current Buffalo Bills receiver Stefon Diggs against West Virginia on Sept. 22, 2012. On Monday, Jarrett was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week.
Sophomore safety Nick Cross said the freshman class is making its presence felt. “Guys like Rube and Rakim and young guys like Tarheeb back there with me in the secondary, the attitude they come to practice with, they’re trying to get better every single day so that when they come to big moments like this, they’re able to make a big impact, and they’re prepared for it,” he said.
Banking on fast starts
The Terps offense has scored on each of its three opening possessions, resulting in 17 points, including touchdowns on each of its past two opening series.
Maryland took advantage of the touchdowns, racing to a 21-7 lead against Minnesota on Oct. 30 and a 21-0 advantage against Penn State on Saturday. In fact, the team has outscored its opponents 38-21 in the first quarter, enjoying a 17-point differential that is exceeded in the Big Ten only by No. 3 Ohio State’s 22-point margin thus far.
“Through three weeks, we’ve been able to get points off of our opening drives, which is one of the reasons why when we won the [coin] toss [Saturday], we decided to take the ball to put our offense on the field and give us some chances,” Locksley said. “It’s been a strength of ours to try to generate some momentum.”
>> The Terps have allowed an average of 2.0 sacks in three games, which would be quite an improvement from the rate of 3.2 sacks surrendered last season. Sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa’s mobility has helped, but Locksley said the offensive line has played well. “That group to me is our most improved position group thus far,” he said. “From where they were last year to this year, I think the game experience that they got going through last season and playing in one of the toughest conferences in college football really helps with their development. I like what we see.”
>> Maryland is regarded as an underdog of 25 to 28 points against the Buckeyes (3-0) this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Maryland Stadium in College Park, marking the third time this season their opponent has been favored by 20 points or more. But that doesn’t bother Locksley. “I don’t get into reading the tea leaves of what people think about us because I’m one of these mindset guys,” he said. “I like the mental part of how prepare your team, and the one thing I’ve learned is whether it’s good or bad, it doesn’t help you in your preparation or it doesn’t help you in how you go out and play when you read or hear positive or negative things.”
>> Locksley said the captains for Saturday’s game will be junior wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr., sophomore defensive tackle Mosiah Nasili-Kite and junior safety Jordan Mosley.
No. 3 OHIO STATE@MARYLAND
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM
Line: Ohio State by 25