This revamped Maryland defense, engineered by coordinator Brian Stewart and led by a cavalcade of veterans, entered Saturday’s conference opener against Wake Forest ranked eighth nationally in total yardage. The Terrapins have been stingy and downright ferocious at times, but also spoke firmly this week about preventing big plays that, at times throughout this season, have cost them.
Each side made an appearance in the first half at Byrd Stadium, with Maryland holding on to a 13-7 lead.
Maryland had Wake Forest backed up to third and long on the opening possession, but Terence Davis somehow sneaked past a five-strong defensive backfield for a 73-yard touchdown that sucked the air out of a sparsely populated Byrd Stadium and had Isaac Goins receiving an earful on the sideline from Stewart and Coach Randy Edsall. Davis replaced the injured Michael Campanaro at the “Z” slot against Duke last weekend and turned in a career-high 100 yards.
Freshman kicker Brad Craddock then drilled a 49-yard field goal on the Terps’ first drive, a nine-play, 28-yard effort starting on short field after a bloop kickoff. Two ensuing drives stalled before the Deacons muffed a fair catch. Cole Farrand recovered the fumble, and Maryland was marching before two penalties backed them to third and 13. Hills recovered his own fumble to set up fourth down, and Craddock crushed a 52-yard field goal, the Terps’ first 50-yarder since 2010, that cut the deficit to 7-6.
But after Wake Forest got a short field in the second quarter and drove inside the Maryland 10 thanks to broken tackles and third-down conversions, Stewart’s unit, powered by the coordinator’s intensity and some West Coast, old-school rap music, came up huge. On third and goal from the 1-yard line, quarterback Tanner Price fumbled the snap to set up fourth down. Dexter McDougle came diving over the top and cracked running back Josh Harris for a huge goal-line stand. Stomping out near midfield after the play, McDougle yelled and pumped his fists after the crucial stop.
Backed up against their own goal line, the Terps gave the ball right back. Two rushes went nowhere, and a deep Perry Hills pass was intercepted at the Maryland 40. The ensuing review stood. Jimmy Newman’s 42-yard field goal attempt then sailed wide left, and the Terps had themselves another stand after the Deacons took over inside enemy territory.
Maryland finally broke through with a 75-yard scoring drive — aided by an 18-yard reception out of the backfield by Justus Pickett — capped off by a 33-yard fade route to a wide-open Kevin Dorsey, who juked the coverage on a Hills pump fake.
A face-mask penalty on fourth down extended Wake Forest’s final drive, as did an offsides and a 14-yard pickup from Price to Davis. A.J. Francis tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage, setting up fourth and three. A 44-yard attempt from Newman had the distance, but also found the netting wide left, maintaining the scoreboard status quo heading into the break.
Hills enters the half 7 of 14 for 100 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Stefon Diggs showcased his jumping and/or levitation abilities with three soaring snags for 38 yards, though the Maryland ground game had a nearly non-existent 16 carries for 17 yards.
Davis had five receptions for 116 yards, a new career-high, while Price completed just 9 of 22 passes for 141 yards and that 73-yard strike.