COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — After his unbeaten team won without playing its best, Maryland coach Michael Locksley kept his focus on the big picture.
“We haven’t played to the standard, but I definitely want to give our team credit that we’re sitting here at 4-0 and we’re disappointed,” he said. “That means that we’re heading in the right direction. We’ve got a locker room full of guys that are happy we won, but not happy with the way we played.”
Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns, and Maryland beat Kent State 37-16 on Saturday. The Terrapins have won their first four games for the first time since 2016, and their solid start has added intrigue to upcoming matchups against Iowa and Ohio State.
Maryland wasn’t necessarily dominant against Kent State, but the Terps stiffened on defense when they needed to. The Golden Flashes (1-3) had the ball in Maryland territory on seven of their first eight possessions, but they managed only nine points on those drives.
Tagovailoa, meanwhile, took everything the Kent State defense gave him, repeatedly finding open receivers in another sharp performance. He went 31 for 41, essentially matching his 75.5% completion percentage coming into the game.
Tagovailoa was intercepted for the first time this season when Rakim Jarrett couldn’t handle his pass in the first quarter. The Golden Flashes took a 3-0 lead, but the Maryland quarterback answered quickly with a 33-yard scoring pass to Dontay Demus.
A 6-yard TD pass from Tagovailoa to Jarrett gave the Terps a 14-6 lead early in the second quarter. Tayon Fleet-Davis added a 3-yard scoring run later in that period.
A holding call on Bill Kuduk nullified a long touchdown throw by Kent State, and although the Golden Flashes reached the red zone on that drive, they lost the ball when Marquez Cooper fumbled.
Kent State had another touchdown called back on its next possession, this one when kicker Andrew Glass appeared to have scored on a fake field goal. A holding flag forced the Golden Flashes to settle for a field goal, and it was 24-9 at halftime.
“Anytime you have self-inflicted wounds that take points off the board, that’s obviously an impact,” Kent State coach Sean Lewis said. “Those are big-swing momentum plays. We have to do a great job of being so good that those calls don’t come up because we execute and are able to do things at a very high level. I know our kids are capable of doing that and being so good that the refs don’t matter.”
Fleet-Davis scored on a 29-yard run in the third quarter, and Tagovailoa added a 9-yard scoring pass to Corey Dyches.
Kent State: The Golden Flashes gained 458 yards of offense against a Big Ten team, and they could have certainly made this a closer game if they’d done a better job finishing drives.
Maryland: The Terps turned the ball over twice and had nine penalties for 120 yards, but Tagovailoa and his talented group of receivers were too much for Kent State.
SPREADING IT AROUND
Twelve different receivers caught passes for Maryland. Demus had 108 yards on four receptions.
“It’s a lot of people across the board that you have to check,” Demus said. “You can’t really just focus on one person.”
THROUGH THE AIR
Kent State was averaging 266 yards rushing per game entering Saturday, but Maryland held the Golden Flashes to 150. Kent State’s Dustin Crum threw for 308 yards and a touchdown, and Dante Cephas had 10 catches for 151 yards and that TD.
Maryland was the fifth team in the others-receiving-votes section this past week. A victory against Kent State probably isn’t enough to move the Terps into the Top 25, but they’ll have a chance soon enough to show they’re worthy.
Kent State: The Golden Flashes host Bowling Green next Saturday. The Falcons are coming off a win over Minnesota.
Maryland: The Terps host No. 5 Iowa on Friday night. Then they travel to play No. 10 Ohio State the following week.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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