Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Preview: Maryland football looks to keep undefeated record intact against Kent State

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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