The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Maryland football shreds Syracuse, setting program record for points vs. ranked opponent

Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson, shown stiff-arming Syracuse linebacker Lee Kpogba, passed for 296 yards and three touchdowns. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Syracuse’s defense was expected to pose a formidable test that would stretch and possibly stifle the capabilities of the new Maryland offense under Michael Locksley. Instead, the Orange’s opposition turned into a platform, one for the Terrapins to stand upon and declare their attack more than just functional but adaptive and reliable.

The Terrapins knocked off No. 21 Syracuse, 63-20, on Saturday at Maryland Stadium, fueled by early firepower that extended through the first half. Even though the offense slowed a bit after halftime, the Terps had more than enough for a win that will increase optimism in the system Locksley brought to College Park from Alabama. It was the most points Maryland has scored against a ranked opponent.

So what worked well offensively, particularly in that first half as the Terps surged ahead of their visitors?

“Honestly, everything,” tight end Tyler Mabry said. “We’ve got weapons everywhere.”

Complete major college scoreboard

Quarterback Josh Jackson, the graduate transfer from Virginia Tech who impressed in his debut last weekend, led the Terrapins with 296 passing yards, spread around a deep receivers group, while his running backs plowed through the Orange’s defense for nearly 350 yards.

Though Jackson looked much sharper in the first half than in the second, he consistently extended drives and completed 21 of 38 passes against the skilled Syracuse pass rush. With Locksley and offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery as the guides, Jackson has established himself as the poised quarterback who can deliver in this offensive system.

“We run a style of offense that the defense can’t be right unless they out-execute us,” Locksley said, adding that the run-pass-options in Maryland’s system force defenses to commit to stopping the run, which in turn creates opportunities for the passing game.

Jackson showed that Maryland’s lopsided 79-0 victory last week over Howard, a Football Championship Subdivision team, was an accurate indication of what the offense could accomplish this year rather than an anomaly thanks to an inferior opponent. The team put forth another showcase performance Saturday under much tougher circumstances en route to defeating a ranked team at Maryland Stadium for the first time since 2010. (Their 34-29 win over No. 23 Texas last season was played at FedEx Field in Landover.)

“We talked about the first game as a first impression,” Jackson said. “And now you just build your reputation.”

Running back Anthony McFarland scored three times for Maryland — twice rushing and once on a six-yard reception. The touchdown catch immediately followed his 39-yard reception in which he broke free from a defender twice before he eventually stepped out of bounds. McFarland’s backup, junior Javon Leake, added two more rushing touchdowns and led the team with 107 yards on the ground. Two more running backs, Tayon Fleet-Davis and Jake Funk, scored touchdowns late in the game, showcasing the position group’s depth.

“All the way to the last back, anybody could start anywhere,” Leake said. “There’s a lot of talent in that room. Whoever gets in, you know something is going to happen — big run, catch, block, anything. It’s just that type of talent.”

Jackson also had plenty of options on the receiving end, finding Carlos Carriere and Mabry for scores, while Darryl Jones (70 yards) and DJ Turner (53 yards) accentuated the passing threat Maryland lacked last season.

Maryland scored six touchdowns and punted only once in the first half, creating a 42-13 lead at the break and scoring its most points in a first half against a Power Five opponent since 2003 and most in any half against a ranked opponent since 1984. What was thought to be a close game, with Maryland favored by a slim margin, turned into one that resembled the opener against Howard. Both games had observers checking school record books, pinpointing the milestones Maryland surpassed.

“We’re laying the foundation,” Locksley said. “I promise you, we’re not even close to being the type of team that I know I want us to be. And I know our team isn’t satisfied with the type of team we are.”

Jackson’s first major mistake of the season came late in the third quarter when he threw an interception after previously showing accuracy in third-down situations. The turnover handed Syracuse favorable field position and, trailing 49-20, perhaps one last chance to get back in the game. But Maryland quickly regained possession when the Orange couldn’t convert on fourth down.

Maryland’s secondary had sporadic communication issues, leading to Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito finishing with 330 passing yards, but the Terrapins’ defensive front shut down the Orange’s running game and pressured DeVito. The Terps played without starting linebacker Shaq Smith, a graduate transfer from Clemson who has been dealing with a minor groin injury.

Maryland forced two Syracuse turnovers during its fast start. Early in the first half, Ayinde Eley recovered a fumble when DeVito took off running on third down and lost the ball. Maryland linebacker Keandre Jones forced the turnover, which eventually led to a McFarland touchdown run to extend the Terps’ lead to 14-0. Jordan Mosley then grabbed his first career interception in the second quarter, setting up a 20-yard touchdown run by McFarland and a 28-7 lead.

To open the past two seasons, Maryland knocked off Texas, ranked 23rd both years. Saturday’s more emphatic win, however, gives promise not only to the season but to the new schemes and the staff tasked with rebuilding a program.

Read more:

College football winners and losers for Week 2

LSU vs. Texas: QBs in the spotlight for showdown in Austin

Cincinnati player carted off field at Ohio State after suffering convulsions following collapse