Tagovailoa's 4 TD passes lead Maryland past Charlotte 56-21
By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Taulia Tagovailoa wasn't happy with himself after failing to throw a touchdown pass in Maryland's season opener.
He made up for it in Week 2 - and then some.
Tagovailoa threw for 391 yards and a career-high four touchdowns, and the high-powered Maryland Terrapins defeated the Charlotte 49ers 56-21 on Saturday to improve to 2-0 for the third time in four seasons under head coach Michael Locksley.
Tagovailoa connected on TD passes of 39 and 45 yards to Jacob Copeland and 14 and 16 yards to Jeshaun Jones in the first half as the Terrapins scored touchdowns on their first five possessions to build a 35-14 lead. The redshirt junior also ran for a score in the second half.
"I feel like we made most of our opportunities count, not just myself but our O-line, our receivers and tight ends," Tagovailoa said. "And we won the game, that's the biggest thing."
Antwaine Littleton ran for a 59-yard touchdown and Colby McDonald scored on a 49-yard burst as Maryland outgained Charlotte 617-388.
"It was efficient, which is what we want to see out of our offense," Locksley said. "I thought (Tagovailoa) played really well. "A week ago he came into the locker room and didn't feel like he played well because he didn't throw any touchdowns. ... Today he did a really good job with the ball location on the deep shots."
Third-string quarterback Xavier Williams threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns for Charlotte (0-3). Williams was pressed into his first college start with Chris Reynolds and James Foster out with injuries.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Tagovailoa used his elusiveness to extend plays, completing 20 of his first 21 passes for 305 yards and four TDs before throwing an interception in the end zone with 1 minute left in the first half.
By then, the damage had already been done.
The Terrapins were able to get whatever they wanted early on through the air and on the ground, needing only 4 minutes, 37 seconds to score their first four touchdowns.
Charlotte coach Will Healy pulled out all of the stops, calling for an onside kick, a double-reverse pass and going for it repeatedly on fourth downs in an effort to steal some points.
But he could do little to stop the bleeding on defense.
"These dudes are different and I think they are a top 10 team in the country offensively," Healy said. "They are really, really good and they exposed us. There wasn't a whole lot of bright spots for us besides the pick at the end of the first half. So it's hard to gain confidence playing those dudes."
Copeland, who finished with four catches for 110 yards, twice got behind the defense for wide-open scores on post routes helping the Terrapins roll up 403 yards of offense at halftime, averaging 12.6 yards per play.
There was a scary moment early in the third quarter after Tagovailoa sprinted out to his right and scored on a 4-yard touchdown run before slipping on the artificial surface and grabbing his right leg.
"Throughout the drive I was cramping and then I had to run the ball," Tagovailoa said. "Everything just locked up. I'm happy I got in the end zone before it did."
He was taken to the locker room for an IV and returned a short while later jogging on the sideline and waving to Maryland fans.
"To keep it PG, I was like, 'holy ...," Locksley said when he saw his QB go down.
But Tagovailoa returned for one play - a 25-yard pass completion - before leaving the game for good.
Maryland: The Terrapins are 8-1 against nonconference opponents overall under Locksley. Tagovailoa appears to be picking up where he left off last season when he broke five school records, throwing for 3,860 yards while completing 69.2% of his passes. The Terrapins have a brutal schedule coming up beginning later this month at Michigan, but certainly look formidable on offense after scoring TDs on seven of their first eight possessions.
Charlotte: The 49ers defense is a mess. Charlotte came into the game having allowed a combined 84 points to Florida Atlantic and William & Mary, an FBC team, and were overpowered by the bigger Terrapins. They've now allowed 140 points in three games. "We are close on a lot of plays," Healy said. "If just some of those can go our ways." Healy said he should know by mid-week if Reynolds will be able to return at QB for next week.
Maryland: Host Southern Methodist on Saturday night.
Charlotte: Visit Georgia State on Saturday night.
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Updated September 10, 2022