COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — When Maryland allowed two touchdowns 10 seconds apart near the beginning of its game against Charlotte, the Terrapins could take solace in the fact that they had plenty of time left.
Once they rebounded and won fairly comfortably, it was time for an honest assessment of the evening.
“These guys understand,” Maryland coach Michael Locksley said. “We did what we needed to do to win the game, but I think we all know that we didn’t play up to our standard.”
Roman Hemby ran for 153 of his 162 yards in the second half, and Maryland overcame a wretched start to beat Charlotte 38-20 on Saturday night.
The 49ers (1-1) scored two touchdowns in quick succession early in the first quarter — the second of which came when Maryland's Taulia Tagovailoa threw a pick-6 on his team's first offensive play. The Terrapins (2-0) mostly shut Charlotte down after that, however, and slowly took control of the game.
Down 14-9 at halftime, Maryland took the opening drive of the third quarter and went 75 yards for its first touchdown. Hemby broke free for a 40-yard run on the drive's first play, and Billy Edwards Jr. replaced Tagovailoa at quarterback for a couple big short-yardage attempts.
On third-and-1 from the Charlotte 26, Edwards fumbled the snap, but Hemby picked up the ball and was able to run for the necessary distance. Then on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Edwards scored on a sneak, and Tagovailoa's pass to Tai Felton on a 2-point conversion put the Terps up 17-14.
Maryland improved to 2-0 for the eighth time in the last nine years, but it was a struggle for a while. After going three straight games without allowing a touchdown — a streak that dated to last season — the Terps yielded one 3 minutes into the game when Jairus Mack was left alone behind the defense and hauled in a 48-yard scoring pass from Jalon Jones.
After Maryland nearly fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, Tagovailoa's pass was picked off by Demetrius Knight II and returned 16 yards for a 14-0 lead.
Maryland didn't manage a first down until the final play of the first quarter, but Jack Howes kicked three field goals in the second to leave the Terps well within striking distance by halftime.
“I think that's when we need to be together the most. I feel like we were brought together by the adversity that we faced,” Hemby said. “Those are the things that help us to build chemistry.”
After Maryland took the lead in the third, Tagovailoa was intercepted in the end zone, but Charlotte couldn't take advantage. Then the Terrapins broke the game open in the fourth. Colby McDonald scored on a 23-yard run, and Tagovailoa connected with Kaden Prather for a 40-yard TD.
“We had a two-touchdown lead early and we make them earn nine points like they’re climbing Mount Everest. Then even when we had a couple of busts, it’s 17-14 and we’re right there," Charlotte coach Biff Poggi said. “Our defense had to play way too many plays. Maryland’s a good football team. Their quarterback is very special, as you saw. And he must have thrown for a ton. We’re chasing all night, which tires a defense out.”
Hemby's 15-yard touchdown run made it 38-14. Charlotte's Joachim Bangda scored on a 1-yard run with 1:22 to play.
It sounds like Maryland will use the 6-foot-4 Edwards instead of the 5-foot-11 Tagovailoa pretty regularly in quarterback sneak situations.
“With Lia, we're trying to minimize the extra hits that he takes,” Locksley said. "Billy's a bigger body.”
Charlotte: Poggi, a former high school coach in Maryland, had his team ready to play in his return to the state. The 49ers' defense gave the Terps plenty of trouble, although ultimately their offense wasn't much of a threat.
Maryland: The Terps outgained Charlotte 530-314 and won decisively despite a couple uncharacteristic mistakes by Tagovailoa.
Charlotte: Hosts Georgia State on Saturday night.
Maryland: Hosts Virginia on Friday night.
___ AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll