Darryl Jones celebrates in the Terps' win (via Maryland Athletics)

“Everyone just did their job”: Maryland football showed poise in defeat of West Virginia

By Logan Hill

Clinging tightly to a two point lead late in the fourth quarter, Taulia Tagovailoa dropped back to pass in what would be the most pivotal play in Maryland’s season-opening win over West Virginia.

Tagovailoa found a wide open Rakim Jarrett, who made the catch and finished the job, scoring a 60-yard touchdown to give Maryland a 30-21 lead with just 6:25 remaining. 

“It was great to see the offense finish on the field the way that they did,” coach Mike Locksley said.

The touchdown was the third of the day and the cherry on top for Tagovailoa. Leading a Maryland offense that had been searching for consistency at the QB position, Tagovailoa demonstrated poise under pressure, torching a defense that led the nation against the pass a season ago.

Tagovailoa finished his fifth career start 26-36, throwing for 332 yards and a trio of touchdowns, electrifying an offense full of talent throughout the skill positions. Both Dontay Demus Jr. and Rakim Jarrett finished the day with more than 100 yards receiving, and senior running back Tayon Fleet-Davis added 123 yards on the ground, including a 53-yard dash to ultimately put the game away.

“First and foremost, it’s always glory to the most high, glory to God,” Tagovailoa said. “It was really a team effort, defense played their butts off when we needed them most, [offensive] line did their job. Everyone just did their job.”

While the offense spent most of the game looking poised, the defense also played complementary and disruptive football throughout, leading to the Terps’ first win over West Virginia since 2013.

Led by a stout secondary, Maryland’s defense forced four turnovers on the day, and despite allowing Mountaineers’ star Leddie Brown to have his way much of the first half, tightened down and kept West Virginia out of the end zone the entire second half. 

Much of the strong defensive effort can be attributed to the secondary, who accounted for two sacks, a pair of interceptions and held West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege to 277 yards on 24-40 passing.

“Really proud of our team, they faced adversity throughout the game,” Locksley said. “Our guys kind of bonded together, and they kept fighting. That’s the important thing.”

Brown, who finished the game with 116 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, appeared to be on track to another big day, seemingly having answers for everything the Terps threw at him. Leading 21-20 at the half, the game script favored Brown to continue to break down the Maryland defense. 

However, a woeful third quarter that featured six punts and no scores left the final outcome very up in the air. 

On their first drive of the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa and company put Maryland in position to regain the lead for the first time since early in the second quarter, as they drove deep into Mountaineer territory. Joseph Petrino hit his third field goal of the day, giving Maryland a 23-21 lead.

On the ensuing possession, West Virginia reverted back to their first half offense, quickly pushing the ball all the way to the Maryland 13-yard line. Threatening to take the lead back with roughly a quarter to go, Doege fired a high pass towards the back corner of the end zone. 

But Maryland cornerback Jakorian Bennett read the play from the snap, leapt up and came down with the interception, giving the ball back to the offense.

The big play sparked new confidence for Maryland, as less than two minutes of game time later, Tagovailoa launched the deep pass to Jarrett, and they broke the game open. What had been a back-and-forth slugfest, was now a nine-point game.

“We were just trying to set it up for the perfect timing,” Jarrett said. “I think that was.”

West Virginia would muster up a field goal, but ultimately Maryland did enough to close it out, moving to 1-0 on the season and delivering an exciting top-to-bottom performance in the first game in front of a packed stadium since 2019. 

As Maryland moves forward and prepares for a Saturday night matchup with Howard, they’ll do so with confidence in their quarterback, as well as the ability of their entire team to play 60 minutes. 

Wearing the infamous “White Terps Script” uniforms popularized by Boomer Esiasion and the Terps of the early 1980’s, Tagovailoa delivered an Esiasion-esque performance and is poised to lead a dynamic offense through the 2021 season.

“[Taulia] was the same throughout the whole game,” Jarrett said. “Poised, calm, our leader.”