By Logan Hill
Maryland football looks to stay undefeated as they take on Kent State in the first ever matchup between the schools.
Coming off of an impressive 20-17 come-from-behind victory over Illinois, the Terps will close out their non-conference schedule ahead of resuming Big Ten play next week. A win would make Maryland 4-0 for the first time since 2016, when they finished the year 6-7 and appeared in the Quick Lane Bowl.
“This is a team that’s already played two top-ten football teams,” coach Mike Locksley said. “They didn’t blink. I can tell you they won’t come into the Shell intimidated.”
For Maryland, it will be up to early standout quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, who has been a bright spot since the season began. Through three games, the junior has 956 yards passing and 7 touchdowns, while boasting a completion percentage of 75 percent. He has shored up a spot of continued inconsistency for Maryland, and has been a key component towards much of their success so far in 2021.
Around him, Tagovailoa has a multitude of weapons across the board. Dontay Demus Jr. and Rakim Jarrett rank second in the nation in terms of combined receiving yards with 597, while Tayon Fleet-Davis has racked up 251 yards on the ground, averaging almost seven yards per carry.
Tight End Chig Okonkwo has also been a bright spot, with two touchdowns already in 2021 after sitting out the 2020 season.
“We had a full off-season,” Tagovailoa said. “Everyone’s been seeing the hard work we put in. Us as a team, more so as an offense, we just try to continue to get better everyday.”
Kent State comes into the game 1-2 but has outplayed their record. They currently lead the MAC conference with 799 rushing yards, and showed flashes against Texas A&M and Iowa despite ultimately losing big in those matchups.
At quarterback, Dustin Crum returns after being named 1st-team All-MAC a season ago and brings a dynamic element to the offense.
“Their quarterback is the thing that makes them go,” Locksley said. “Crum is a savvy, veteran quarterback that knows that system really, really well.”
For Maryland and Locksley, a win would be another link in the chain of improving the culture around Maryland football. It would also be another confidence booster for the Terps, ahead of back-to-back matchups against top-ten teams Iowa and Ohio State.
“This’ll be a good challenge for us, being back here at the Shell,” Locksley said. “When you’re able to make corrections and coach your players hard after a tough road win like we had [last] weekend, my expectation is that our players will bounce back.”
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