The Maryland Terrapins overcame early offensive struggles Saturday night in College Park, defeating the Duke Blue Devils, 21-16.
The momentum shifted with twelve and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter, as Tony Logan returned an Alex King punt 84 yards for his second score of the year to give Maryland a 14-9 lead. Honestly, at first, I didn't think I was gonna go anywhere, Logan said. I saw about three or four guys to the right, and I figured if I went to the left and got those guys going to cut back, that there would be a chance. Luckily I broke a couple of arm tackles and there was nobody else there, so that was about it. That's all she wrote.
Duke took an early lead with three field goals on their first three drives, as wide receiver Donovan Varner had six catches for 91 yards in the first half. Maryland's offense struggled early, only gaining 52 total yards in the first quarter, but rebounded with a nice second half effort.
Maryland was able to extend their lead to 21-9 early in the fourth, when a Danny O'Brien swing pass to Da'Rel Scott turned into a 71-yard touchdown reception, as Scott sprinted down the sideline and was able to break three tackles on his way to the end zone.
Duke brought the game within five after a two yard pass from quarterback Sean Renfree found Alex King in the endzone. Trailing 21-16 with slightly over four minutes left to play, the Blue Devils had a chance at one last drive to win the game, starting from their own 19. After two first downs put them on their own 43, the Blue Devils faced 4th-and-3 at the 50-yard line. Renfree calmly threw it over the middle, completing the pass to Austin Kelly for the first down. Renfree completed another first down throw two plays later, putting Duke on Maryland's 33.
Star wide receiver Donovan Varner dropped an easy first down pass on 2nd-and-15, and two plays later Renfree threw it to Kelly over the middle, but Antwine Perez came through with a big hit to cause the turnover on downs and give the Terps the victory.
The Terps' defense had better success with the pass rush and on third downs than in past games. Coming into the game, Renfree had only been sacked four times. Saturday night, Maryland equaled that total, and pressured him countless more times than that. One of the keys in this change was the increased use of safety Kenny Tate in the pass rush, who was a very efficient disruptor for the Terps' defense. We got after the quarterback, defensive coordinator Don Brown said. We didn't play scared, we got after it.
I thought [Brown] got Kenny Tate involved in rushing the passer, coach Ralph Friedgen said. I thought Tates did the best job I've ever seen him do at rushing the passer.
Duke's passing attack was very dangerous, especially in the first. Renfree finished with 351 yards and one touchdown, although he only completed 28 of 56 passes and threw two interceptions. Donovan Varner caught eight passes for 128 yards, Conner Vernon caught six passes for 99 yards, and Austin Kelly had six catches for 60 yards. Linebacker Abraham Kromah led all tacklers with 15 on the night.
For Maryland, O'Brien was 9 of 26 for 170 yards and a touchdown, Davin Meggett rushed 18 times for 57 yards and a touchdown, and Scott finished with 121 total yards and a touchdown. Tate finished with nine tackles and one and a half sacks, Alex Wujciak had eight tackles, Joe Vellano had seven tackles and two sacks, and Adrian Moten had seven tackles, half a sack, and an interception. The other interception for the Terps came from Antwine Perez.
Maryland improves to 4-0 at home this season, and 4-1 overall. After a bye week next week, they next play at Clemson on October 16th.