With kickoff to Northwestern’s season opener in Dublin, Ireland just over two weeks away, it’s time to begin examining the Wildcats’ opponents during their 2022 season via the Know Your Opponent series. We’ll be breaking down the teams that NU will face each week, discussing their 2021 campaigns, season outlooks and more.
Next up is Maryland, a team who could be on the cusp of breaking through this season.
Returning Production: 72% (83% Offense, 61% Defense)
2020 Record: 7-6 (3-6 B1G)
Coach: Mike Locksley
The following metrics are courtesy of Bill Connelly and Football Outsiders (and now ESPN!). You can read more about the rankings and theory behind them here.
2021 S&P+ Overall: 60th
2021 S&P+ Offense: 26th
2021 S&P+ Defense: 74th
Head coach Mike Locksley was already on the hot seat in his third season at Maryland. With a combined record of 5-12 in 2019 and the shortened 2020 season, Locksley needed a successful 2021 campaign to appease Terrapin fans.
Maryland started last season red hot with four straight wins against Illinois, West Virginia, Howard and Kent State. Unfortunately for the 4-0 Terps, the back end of their schedule featured much more difficult opponents.
Locksley’s team went on a three-game skid in which they faced No. 23 Iowa, No. 6 Ohio State and Minnesota. Maryland lost by a combined 104 points during this losing streak, with its biggest defeat coming 66-17 against the Buckeyes.
The Terrapins went on to win two of their last five games in the regular season, which would be just enough to qualify them for a bowl game. To cap off one of their most successful seasons in recent memory, Maryland cruised to a 54-10 victory in the Pinstripe Bowl against Virginia Tech. The 2021 season was Maryland’s first time finishing with a record above .500 since former head coach Randy Edsall’s squad did it in 2014.
Defensive coordinators will have two words on their minds when strategizing against Maryland this upcoming season: Taulia Tagovailoa. It’s no secret that the Terrapin offense depends heavily on their passing game; in 2021, the Terps had more than twice as many passing yards than rushing yards. Tagovailoa is mostly a pocket passer, but he does have the ability to throw on the run if needed.
Offensive coordinator Dan Enos is not afraid to go for the long ball with Tagovailoa at the helm, but he generally draws up plays at the mid-level. The passing game has the potential to become even more potent in the 2022 season with wide receiver Dontay Demus returning from injury. In just five games, Demus proved to be a deep threat, averaging 18 yards per reception with three touchdowns.
Although the Maryland offense is centered around the passing game, the rushing game certainly isn’t a weak spot. On the ground, the Terps averaged more than 130 yards per game, with their leading rusher Tayon Fleet-Davis averaging 5.6 yards per carry. In the 2022 season, do not be surprised if Maryland again depends on their high-powered offense to win games.
In February 2022, Locksley promoted Brian Williams to the defensive coordinator position. Williams called the defensive plays in some games during the 2021 season as co-defensive coordinator.
In 2021, the Terrapins struggled to stop both the run and pass, which led to their opponents averaging just over 30 points per game. Unfortunately for the Terps, their defense lost 39% of its production, which included their All-Big Ten honorable mention safety Jordan Mosley.
One of Maryland’s most glaring weaknesses is its lack of a pass rush. The Terrapins averaged 2.4 sacks per game, leading to their opponents averaging 263 pass yards per game. In the upcoming season, look for veteran defensive linemen Greg China-Rose and Mosiah Nasili-Kite to play pivotal roles in improving the Maryland pass rush.
Three Players to Know
Taulia Tagovailoa, QB
Taulia Tagovailoa is a Hawaii native and younger brother of Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The Terps’ starting quarterback has begun to make a name for himself, as he had the tenth most passing yards in the FBS with 3,860. With his 2021 completion percentage at 69.2%, Tagovailoa also brandishes a top 10 ranking in terms of completion percentage, in which he places ninth. The deadeye quarterback will look to prove that he is one of the top quarterbacks in the country during this upcoming season.
Dontay Demus, WR
The fifth-year long ball threat is set to be Taulia’s number one target headed into the 2022 season. In 2021, Demus racked up 507 yards in 5 games before tearing his ACL during a kickoff return against Iowa. Although leg injuries are challenging to bounce back from, head coach Mike Locksley announced that he expects Demus to be ready for week one against Buffalo.
Jaelyn Duncan, OT
The 6-foot-6, 320-pound left tackle is one player that NFL scouts will have their eye on this season. The senior has steadily improved throughout his time at Maryland and looks to continue this trend in the upcoming year. Duncan is a pivotal piece of the Terrapins’ offensive line, which helped set a program record in passing yards during the 2021 season.