Maryland (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) ultimately outgained Minnesota (3-1, 0-1), 432 yards to 263 in a turnover-free performance that made last week’s letdown against Temple look more like a blip than a performance indicative of the team’s ability.
“With any game, you want to obviously get out to a fast start, try to get that momentum going,” Hill said. “Especially coming off of last week as an offense, we were focused on starting fast and really just going out, playing and having fun.”
Redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland, one of the Terps’ only bright spots in the 35-14 loss to the previously winless Owls, accumulated more than 100 rushing yards for the second straight game, needing only six carries to finish with 112. McFarland also scored twice against the Golden Gophers, including on a 64-yard run in the third quarter.
After missing his senior year of high school at DeMatha and his first year at Maryland with injury, the young running back has started to emerge as a go-to ballcarrier, even though interim coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada employs a share-the-carries model.
Ty Johnson, the senior who moved into the top 10 on Maryland’s all-time rushing list earlier this season, combined with McFarland to lead the ground attack. Johnson carried 11 times for 123 yards, including an 81-yard score.
The inspired performance came against a Minnesota team that had allowed an average of nine points per game but had yet to play a Power Five program in its first three games.
Hill also had a much improved day for the Terrapins. The redshirt freshman quarterback finished with his best completion percentage of the year, completing 10 of 14 passes for 117 yards with a 54-yard touchdown throw to DJ Turner and no interceptions. In the first half alone, Hill had more completions (nine) than he had in the entire game against Temple (seven).
“However we get a flow, get a rhythm, however that’s working for us that day, all of us just want to win — whether it’s running the ball or throwing the ball, whatever we have to do,” Hill said.
Meanwhile, Minnesota’s walk-on freshman quarterback, Zack Annexstad, struggled as Maryland’s defensive front pressured him throughout the game. Annexstad finished 14 for 32 for 169 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Maryland linebacker Tre Watson returned an interception for a touchdown on the second play of the second half, deflating Minnesota’s chances after it had pulled to within 21-10 in the final minute of the second quarter.
“The ball’s in the air," Watson said. "It’s got to be mine. That’s all of our approach as soon as the ball’s in the air. ... No better feeling than being in the end zone for the team.”
Maryland notched four sacks, including one from Bryon Cowart when Minnesota attempted to convert a fourth down inside the 10-yard line late in the third quarter. On the next possession in the fourth, RaVon Davis recorded his first career interception on a fourth down in the red zone.
“Those were absolutely huge plays,” Watson said. “When you’re all the way down there inside the red zone, you’re expecting to give up some amount of points, three at a minimum. And then we get those types of stops, that changes the game.”
The atmosphere, however, was less electric. Maryland Stadium had plenty of empty seats at kickoff and many more as Saturday’s game progressed. The announced attendance was 36,211.
The game began about 18 hours after the University System of Maryland Board of Regents released a report regarding the circumstances surrounding the June death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair after he suffered heatstroke at a team workout in May. The report detailed the errors made by school employees and the timeline of the workout, including how more than an hour passed between the time McNair began experiencing symptoms and when school officials called 911.
The board of regents does not plan to make any personnel decisions until after a second investigation, which will evaluate the program’s culture, is complete. Coach DJ Durkin, who was not mentioned in the 74-page report released Friday, remains on administrative leave. Trainers Wes Robinson and Steve Nordwall, who were both mentioned in the report, are also on leave.
The team continues to honor McNair on the field at games. Before kickoff Saturday, the players knelt around the 79 painted behind the west end zone, and offensive lineman Derwin Gray carried the No. 79 flag onto the field.
Gray returned to play after missing the Temple game with an injury, while fellow tackle Damian Prince remained out. Terrance Davis, who also missed the last game, started for the first time this season on the line. The position group, one that was likely most intimately affected by McNair’s death, paved the way for the Terps’ 315 rushing yards and only allowed one sack.
“It’s unbelievable,” Canada said loudly before a reporter finished a question about the team’s resiliency. “... We are so proud of our players and how hard they play and how hard they stick together and how hard they focus on each other. Somebody smart ought to do some kind of study on it, because it’s impressive.”