The Maryland football team wasn’t given much of a chance by the general public in Saturday’s game against Texas.
However, the Terrapins made a statement in all three phases of the game in a 51-41 win.
Maryland came into the game as 18-point underdogs with a quarterback that had only started one career game prior to Saturday. Regardless, Tyrrell Pigrome lead the Terps to a stellar first half performance in which they took a 30-14 lead into halftime.
While things did get a tense for a period in the second half, Maryland still had the perseverance to withstand the Texas rally. That may not have happened last season.
Let’s take a closer look at the game with our three takeaways.
Stellar quarterback play
The quarterback position was the team’s biggest question mark throughout the offseason.
Just six days before taking the field in Austin, it was learned that Pigrome would be the starter. Saturday’s game didn’t get off to such a hot start as wideout D.J. Moore tipped a Pigrome pass into the arms of Texas’ Holton Hill, who returned it back 31 yards for a touchdown just 1:20 into the contest.
Fortunately for Maryland, Pigrome had a short memory and responded with a 25-yard touchdown run to tie the game just minutes later. Then he found Moore in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown to put the Terps up 14-7 in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, he lofted a sensational deep ball that wideout Taivon Jacobs hauled in for a 46-yard score.
Pigrome was clicking on all cylinders until he was forced to leave the game due to a leg injury as he tried to make a cut on the turf.
Enter true freshman Kasim Hill.
There couldn’t have been a more high pressure situation. Maryland was clinging to a 37-34 lead on the road against a ranked team.
Hill was certainly up to the challenge as he completed a tough throw to Moore on a 3rd-and-19 to get the Terps all the way down to the Texas seven yard line. The former four-star recruit ended up punching it in himself from three yards out to put Maryland up 44-34 with 7:36 left.
In the face of adversity, Hill shined and proved that he’s more than capable of stepping in for Pigrome if necessary.
Running game still excels
Maryland had a stellar rushing attack last season and nothing has changed as 2017 got underway.
On Saturday, the Terps rushed for 263 yards on 43 carries (6.1 yards-per-carry) and four touchdowns. Junior Ty Johnson led the way with 12 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown while Pigrome added 64 yards and a score.
Maryland had three players with double-digit carries in Lorenzo Harrison III (11), Johnson (12), and Pigrome (11).
When the quarterback position wasn’t the team’s biggest strength in 2016, the backfield rarely left the Terps down. Maryland finished fourth in the Big Ten with nearly 200 rushing yards per contest and those numbers could happen once again in 2017.
Johnson rattled off a 40-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that put Maryland ahead 37-27. Over the course of his Terps career, he’s had a knack of ripping off long touchdown runs.
Maryland appeared committed to giving both Johnson and Harrison a similar workload. That could be a huge positive due to the fact that it’ll keep each back fresher as the season progresses.
Defenses holds their own
Maryland’s defense was an area of concern at times throughout the 2016 season.
After Saturday’s performance, it certainly could be viewed as a position of strength.
Texas did put up 41 points on Maryland, but three of their six touchdowns came courtesy of an interception return, punt return, and a blocked field goal. The Longhorns didn’t score an offensive touchdown until there was 7:20 left in the third quarter.
Shane Buechele may have thrown for 375 yards, but he only averaged 7.1 yards-per-attempt. He was forced to throw a lot of short passes, especially in the opening half.
One of the most impressive Terps was sophomore Antoine Brooks. Brooks converted to defensive back in the offseason and ended up recording four tackles (one for loss) on the afternoon.
Brooks provided tremendous coverage downfield and was often a thorn in the side of Buechele and the Texas wideouts.
Maryland also got terrific play from their linebackers all afternoon.
Jermaine Carter Jr. played like a man possessed as he recorded a pair of sacks. Carter absolutely blasted Buechele at the Texas one-yard line for a sack in the first quarter.
On the other hand, Shane Cockerille excelled in his first game post-suspension. Cockerille led the team with seven solo tackles and was absolutely buzzing around the football.
Jalen Brooks also recorded a sack as he came off the edge and brought Buechele to the turf.
Maryland got a lot of strong performances from their defense. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but it was great to see the unit flourish in a tough environment.