COLLEGE PARK — Maryland has heard all season about how it had gotten off to a slow start in games, including back-to-back weeks going down by two touchdowns in the first quarter.
Consider what happened Saturday then the equivalent of a burnout down the front stretch at the Indianapolis 500.
Maryland three scored touchdowns on three of its first four drives, Taulia Tagovailoa set a career high with five touchdown passes — three of them to Tai Felton — and the Terrapins stepped on the gas early and sped away from Indiana 44-17.
“I thought today was probably the most complete game that we played in all three phases. Started fast, finished strong, played to our standard. And usually if you play to your standard, you usually end up with the win,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley said.
Tagovailoa accounted for all six Terrapins touchdowns, including a 19 yard rushing score in the first quarter. His 24-of-34, 352-yard performance also pushed him north of 9,000 yards passing for his Maryland career. It’s the first time a Terrapin has thrown for five scores since Scott Milanovich — who Tagovailoa has often surpassed in program annals — did so in 1994.
Felton went off for a career day. The receiver torched the Hoosiers for 134 yards on seven catches and Maryland’s first two touchdowns of the game, adding another on the penultimate drive of the first half. Hitting the century mark in yards was a first, and the trio of TDs were a career high for the Ashburn, Virginia, native, marking the first time a Terrapins receiver had done so since Torrey Smith in 2010.
The Terrapins are 5-0 for the first time since 2001, when Maryland reached the Orange Bowl. After coach Locksley preached all week about playing to a “standard,” Maryland’s offensive expeditiousness on its touchdown drives reached a level yet unseen this season.
“You know what, they pull for each other. They’ve got a tremendous brotherhood that’s been created where they don’t want to let each other down. It ain’t even about letting us down as coaches. It’s about that brotherhood,” Locksley said.
The first play of the game was a shot across the bow of what was to come for Indiana. Tagovailoa rainbowed a ball left to a wide-open Jeshaun Jones, who raced down the sideline for a 62-yard gain. Two plays later, Felton took a screen pass around the right side 13 yards for his first score.
Maryland’s initial scoring drive took a mere 25 seconds. The second one only took five.
After a bad punt on Indiana’s second drive was made worse by a fair catch interference call on the Hoosiers, Tagovailoa found Felton again. The wide-open, 29-yard pitch-and-catch down the middle of the field put Maryland up 14-0 and left no doubt about how the rest of the afternoon would go.
The Terrapins’ first four scoring drives all took less than a minute — combined, they only elapsed 76 seconds. Maryland would add two second half touchdowns, with Tagovailoa finding freshman tight end Dylan Wade and receiver Kaden Prather for 3 and 14 yard scores, respectively.