After a 4-8 season in 2017, Maryland was looking forward to a step forward in head coach DJ Durkin’s third season. The program would not be able to see what that next step would look like, as Durkin was suspended indefinitely in August while his program was under investigation related to the death of a player over the offseason. Matt Canada was named the interim head coach until Durkin’s return, which came on October 30th after an investigation found that Durkin did not have a toxic culture. One day after his reinstatement, Durkin was fired due to public backlash, and Canada finished off the season.
The season started off well with a 34-29 upset win over Texas and a win over Bowling Green. They then lost by 21 to Temple before beating Minnesota by 29 to advance to 3-1. After a 21 point loss to Michigan and a 34-7 win over Rutgers, Maryland sat at 4-2 at the halfway point of the season. They lost to Iowa and beat Illinois by 33 and were 5-3 when Durkin was reinstated and promptly fired.
The game that came at the end of the rollercoaster of the week was against Michigan State, a game they lost 24-3. They came close in their next game, a two point loss to Indiana, but the real heartbreaker came in the next week against Ohio State. After taking a 31-17 lead early in the third quarter, Ohio State came back and sent the game to overtime. Ohio State struck first in overtime, and Maryland scored to bring the game to within one. They narrowly failed a two-point conversion and their upset bid fell just short, 52-51. They lost their next game 38-3 to Penn State, falling to 5-7 and ending 2018 on a four game losing streak.
Maryland’s offense was led by quarterback Kasim Hill, who played the first ten games before suffering an injury in the Indiana game. In his time on the field, he threw for 1,083 yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions, completing 49.4% of his passes. He broke 200 yards twice, throwing for 222 and a touchdown against Texas and 265 yards and three touchdowns against Illinois. Tyrrell Pigrome took over in the Indiana game and started the Ohio State and Penn State games, ending the season completing 55.2% of his passes for 561 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. He was also dangerous as a runner, ending the year with 159 yards and a touchdown. He threw a touchdown against Indiana and Ohio State, and had his best day on the ground against Michigan, getting 63 yards and a touchdown on five carries. Wide receiver Jeshaun Jones threw a 20 yard touchdown against Texas.
Running back was a strength for the Maryland offense, led by Anthony McFarland, who ended the season with 1,034 yards and four touchdowns. He had a breakout game against Ohio State, getting 298 yards and two touchdowns. That was his second consecutive game reaching 200 yards, getting 210 against Indiana. Ty Johnson had a nagging injury that ultimately saw his season end against Indiana, but was able to get 506 yards and three touchdowns in the games he played. He had his best game of the season against Rutgers, getting 132 yards and a touchdown. Tayon Fleet-Davis ended up with a solid season, getting 331 yards and five touchdowns. He broke 100 yards once, getting 102 and two touchdowns against Bowling Green. With seven rushing touchdowns, Javon Leake had more than anyone on the team. He rushed for 309 yards on the season, and had his best day against Illinois, getting 140 yards and three touchdowns on five carries. Lorenzo Harrison and Ikechukwu Ogwuegbu turned in solid games in blowout wins, as Harrison rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown against Bowling Green and Ogwuegbu ran for 60 yards against Illinois. Wide receiver Jeshaun Jones and tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo made an impact in the running game, as Jones ran for 173 yards and two touchdowns and Okonkwo scored on two of his three carries, one from 54 yards out. McFarland was named a second team all-Big Ten running back by the media and to the third team by the coaches.
Taivon Jacobs led the Maryland receivers with 328 yards on the season, adding two touchdowns. He made a big impact in the opener against Texas, getting 73 yards and a touchdown. Jeshaun Jones added 288 yards and five touchdowns on the year. He played his best game against Texas, catching two passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a 28 yard touchdown and threw a touchdown in the win. Dontay Demus ended the season with 278 yards, including a 98 yard day against Indiana. DJ Turner had 159 yards and a touchdown, which came on a 54 yard catch against Minnesota. Jahris Davenport had two touchdowns on the season to go with his 156 yards. Darryl Jones and Brian Cobbs each added over 100 yards on the season.
Maryland’s offense line was solid at different points of the season. They were an experienced group led by Derwin Gray and Damien Prince at tackles. Sam Christie and Brendan Moore were the starters at guard, and Johnny Jordan started at center. The unit performed well enough to help the offense cross 40 points multiple times and were part of an offense that was up and down in production. Derwin Gray and Brendan Moore were named all-Big Ten honorable mentions by both the coaches and the media.
Maryland’s offense was a unit that had extreme highs and lows. At their best, they were putting up 63 on Illinois and scoring 51 on Ohio State, giving the Big Ten champion a serious run for their money. At their worst, they were shut out by Iowa and only scored three against Michigan State and Penn State. There were off the field circumstances that may have taken some of the focus off of football, but their offense will need to be more consistent in 2019 if they want to take the next step, being a bowl team and being a threat to upset the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State.
An success Maryland hoped to have on defense started up front, and leading the line was defensive end Byron Cowart. He had 38 tackles on the season with five tackles for loss and three sacks. He had seven tackles against Iowa, his highest total of the season. He also had interceptions against Rutgers and Michigan State and forced a fumble against Minnesota. Jesse Aniebonam was strong on the end as well, ending the season with 39 tackles, five for loss, and two sacks. He had his season high and tackles against Temple and Iowa with seven. At tackle, Adam McLean had 36 tackles and a sack. He had seven tackles against Iowa, his season high. Mbi Tanyi also had a solid season at tackle, ending the season with 36 tackles and two for loss. His five tackles against Temple was his season’s best.
Keiron Howard was also solid at tackle, getting 22 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks on the season. Oseh Saine had a good season as well, getting 23 tackles. Cowart was named an honorable mention by both the coaches and media.
Linebacker was probably Maryland’s strongest defensive unit, led by Tre Watson who had 108 tackles, three for loss, and a sack on the season. He also had five interceptions and recovered a fumble. He had double digit tackles six times, including two 15 tackle performances. He probably had his best game against Iowa, when he had 15 tackles and an interception. He returned an interception for a touchdown against Minnesota and recovered a fumble against Ohio State. Isaiah Davis had a strong season as well, ending with 96 tackles and two sacks. His 14 tackles against Iowa was his best total of the season and his two sacks both came against Bowling Green as part of a 10 tackle game.
Ayinde Eley had 13 tackles on the season and added an interception and a fumble recovery on the year. He got an interception against Bowling Green and recovered a fumble against Ohio State. Tre Watson was named a first team all-Big Ten linebacker by the media and a second team by the coaches.
Maryland saw strong defensive back play in 2018, starting with Antoine Brooks. Brooks had 68 tackles, 9.5 for loss with 2.5 sacks on the year. He had his best game against Texas, when he had 11 tackles and an interception. Darnell Savage had 52 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and four interceptions on the season. He had two interceptions against Rutgers and returned an interception for a touchdown against Temple. Antwaine Richardson had 41 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, an interception, and a fumble recovery on the season. He got his interception against Illinois and recovered a fumble against Penn State. RaVon Davis had a solid year as well, getting 31 tackles with 1.5 for loss, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles. He returned an interception for a touchdown against Ohio State, a game where he also forced a fumble. He also forced a fumble against Penn State and had interceptions against Minnesota and Michigan State.
Tino Ellis was a force in the secondary, getting 24 tackles, three for loss, an interception, and forcing a fumble on the year. He had a 44 yard interception return against Rutgers and forced a fumble against Texas. Jordan Mosley also had a solid season, getting 29 tackles on the year. Rayshad Lewis added 17 tackles, including five against Ohio State. Savage was named to the second team all-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media. Antoine Brooks was named to the second team by the coaches and honorable mention by the media. Tino Ellis was named an honorable mention by both the coaches and the media.
Maryland needed more success out of their defense in 2018. They allowed more than 30 points in five of their seven losses, and that falls on the defense. Though they had strong individual performances, they need to improve from front to back to see success in 2019. The defensive line will be a big point of focus as they move into the offseason, as they failed to create the pressure needed for the defense to be at its best.
Special teams was solid in 2018 for Maryland. Joseph Petrino had a pretty good year kicking, making 40 of his 41 extra point attempts. He was 12 for 14 on field goals as well. Wade Lees was solid at punter, averaging 40.9 yards per punt. Javon Leake and Ty Johnson had about an equal number of kick returns, each scoring a touchdown. Leake had 409 yards on the year and scored a touchdown against Illinois while Johnson had 381 yards and scored a touchdown against Michigan.
Taivon Jacobs was the primary punt returner, but struggled, getting 30 yards on 16 returns. Jesse Aniebonam blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown against Temple. Lees and Johnson were both named honorable mentions by the Big Ten coaches and media.
While special teams was solid, there were a few issues, especially with Petrino. He only missed three kicks, an extra point and two field goals. He missed a field goal in a 38-3 loss to Penn State, so a made kick wouldn’t have done much. He missed an extra point in a key moment against Indiana in a two point loss. He missed in the second quarter to keep the deficit at 21-12. Had he made the kick, it would’ve been a one score game and would’ve been 21-16 at the half. Maryland attempted a two-point conversion while leading 32-31 to attempt to take a three point lead and failed. Had he made the extra point, Maryland could have kicked an extra point there to go up 34-31, and gone to overtime after the Indiana field goal instead of losing 34-32. He also missed a field goal against Ohio State in a 52-51 loss. He missed in the second quarter and would’ve extended the Maryland lead to 20-3 had he made the field goal. If he made the field goal, it’s possible that Ohio State wouldn’t have had time to come back to send the game to overtime, as they scored with 40 seconds remaining to tie the game at 45 and send it to overtime.
Overall, Maryland’s season was disappointing, but understandable due to the circumstances that clouded the beginning of November. Going 5-3 to start the year was a good step for the program, but losing the last four, with two games decided by two points or less, was disappointing and a tough blow for the progress they made. Hopefully, as they move forward, they can improve as a program and not have outside distractions to derail their season.
Final AP Ranking (Preseason): Not ranked (Not ranked)
Final Coaches Poll Ranking (Preseason): Not ranked (Not ranked)
Offensive MVP: Anthony McFarland
Defensive MVP: Tre Watson