By Jake Russell
The Maryland Terrapins shocked the college football world last September when they handled the No. 23 Texas Longhorns, 51-41, in Austin.
Fast forward 364 days and the Terps were looking to do the same thing when they hosted 23rd-ranked Texas at FedEx Field Saturday afternoon in the second of a two-year home-and-home arrangement. This time, however, it would have to be under much different circumstances.
The program has faced heavy scrutiny over its treatment of players during workouts and practices following the heatstroke death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair in June. Maryland also opens its season with head coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave while two investigations are ongoing. No one was really sure what to expect from this year’s team.
The players had two options: let the situation take them over and never fully recover or unite and play in the fashion McNair would want them to. Saturday’s end result shows they chose the latter.
The Terps opened the game with a tribute to McNair by lining up on offense with just 10 players, leaving a hole at right guard where McNair would have been stationed. The Terps held their stance until time ran off the play clock for a delay of game. In a classy gesture, Texas declined the penalty.
Maryland quickly turned its attention to the task at hand, putting together a six-play, 67-yard scoring drive in just over two minutes topped off by a 28-yard touchdown run by freshman Jeshaun Jones, who put his name on the map Saturday.
Jones added a 65-yard touchdown reception two drives later and a 20-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Jones became the first true freshman to run, catch and throw for a touchdown in a game since Oregon’s Marcus Mariota in 2012.
Thanks in large part to Jones, Maryland stormed out to a 24-7 lead midway through the second quarter. The Longhorns mounted a comeback, cutting the lead to 24-22 by halftime, even taking a 29-24 lead late in the third. The Terps answered with a Tayon Fleet-Davis 17-yard touchdown run to go up 31-29 before an 86-minute weather delay interrupted the game.
Texas put up a fight but three forced turnovers by the Maryland defense in the final quarter sealed their fate, including an Antoine Brooks Jr. interception with 1:04 remaining that secured the 34-29 victory.
With that, the Terps upset the Longhorns for the second straight year. But this one meant more. The whole team displayed No. 79 stickers on every helmet. The team captains held a No. 79 jersey during the pregame coin toss. A No. 79 flag hung behind the bench, which offensive lineman Ellis McKennie proudly waved as he ran over to the Maryland student section and then along the Maryland sideline after the big win.
Maryland defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. and interim head coach Matt Canada converse before the game. (Photo by Jake Russell)
The back of defensive lineman Brett Kulka’s helmet displays the No. 79 sticker honoring late Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland and Texas meet at midfield before the game. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Former Texas Longhorn and current Washington Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy before Saturday’s matchup. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland makes its entrance. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland makes its entrance. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Late Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair is honored before the game. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland’s captains hold up Jordan McNair’s No. 79 jersey during the coin toss. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland interim head coach Matt Canada looks at his play sheet. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Terps wide receiver Taivon Jacobs hauls in a pass. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland wide receiver Jeshaun Jones runs for a 28-yard touchdown. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Terps wide receiver Jeshaun Jones celebrates his touchdown run. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland defensive back Tino Ellis lines up against Texas wide receiver Devin Duvernay. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland honorary captains Mark Agent and Vernon Davis pose for a photo. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Texas return man Brandon Jones tries to avoid tackles from Matt Oliveira (36) and Jake Funk (34). (Photo by Jake Russell)
Fans display the Maryland state flag in the west end zone of FedEx Field. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland wide receiver Jeshaun Jones scores on a 65-yard touchdown reception. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank hold court on the Maryland sideline. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Terps tight end Avery Edwards fails to haul in the pass. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland quarterback Kasim Hill slides before being hit by Texas linebacker Gary Johnson, who was ejected for targeting after the head-to-head collision knocked Hill’s helmet off his head. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Texas’ Lil’Jordan Humphrey attempts to hurdle Maryland’s DJ Turner. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Terps quarterback Kasim Hill attempts a pass. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland defensive lineman Mbi Tanyi combats Texas offensive lineman Derek Kerstetter. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Terps defensive lineman Mbi Tanyi flushes Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger outside the pocket. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Texas running back Keaontay Ingram scores a touchdown. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Longhorns running back Keaontay Ingram tries to evade Terps defenders. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland running back Tayon Fleet-Davis scores on a 17-yard touchdown run. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Terps running back Tayon Fleet-Davis is bombarded by teammates celebrating his touchdown. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Weather delayed the game for 86 minutes. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland wide receiver Jahrvis Davenport tries to make a move in open space. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland linebacker Tre Watson secures an interception. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland running back Jake Funk looks for an escape route in Texas’ defense. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Terps defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. picks off a pass with 1:04 remaining. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Tyler Hamilton (63), Jack Wagman (76), Joseph Petrino (27) and Justin Brown (26) celebrate Maryland’s 34-29 win. (Photo by Jake Russell)
A Maryland player holds his helmet to the sky after the Terrapins’ surprise victory over the Texas Longhorns. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Terps running back Jake Funk celebrates with the Maryland student section. (Photo by Jake Russell)
Maryland interim coach Matt Canada embraces offensive lineman Johnny Jordan. (Photo by Jake Russell)