COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) - After watching Maryland ring up 34 points and 379 yards, Terrapins interim coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada pulled a reverse and spoke glowingly about the defense.
And why not? Maryland picked off five passes, yielded only 179 yards and took a shutout into the final minute of a 34-7 rout of Rutgers on Saturday.
“We played exceptionally well and unbelievably well on defense,” Canada said. “On offense, we scored enough points to win the game.”
More than enough, actually. Kasim Hill threw three touchdown passes, Ty Johnson ran for 132 yards and Maryland (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) cruised to the finish after building a 24-0 lead at halftime.
A Rutgers touchdown with 43 seconds remaining ended Maryland’s bid for its first shutout since a 37-0 win over West Virginia on Sept. 21, 2013.
“We have a great defense, we have a great offense,” declared Johnson, who had 121 yards on the ground by halftime.
Rutgers (1-6, 0-4) lost its sixth straight. Freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski was pulled late in the third quarter after going 2 for 16 for 8 yards and four interceptions.
“When you struggle to run the ball and protect the quarterback, and you struggle to get open against man-coverage and make turnovers, it’s going to be tough to win the game,” Rutgers coach Chris Ash said. “We’ve got to figure out something offensively to move the ball consistently and score some points.”
The offense deserves plenty of blame, but the Scarlet Knights couldn’t even handle a kickoff correctly. After Johnson’s 65-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter finally put the Terrapins on the board, the ensuing kickoff was high and short . Maryland snagged it on the first hop, setting up a field goal for a 10-0 lead.
Sitkowski was unable to make up the deficit. Maryland defensive Darnell Savage had two interceptions, matching Rutgers’ completion total.
Backup Giovanni Rescigno threw one pass - and it was picked off by Tre Watson, who also had five tackles after missing the first half serving a suspension for targeting.
The five interceptions were Maryland’s most since a seven-pick performance against Duke in 1998.
“I honestly didn’t know how many there were until we came inside,” Canada said. “I was really excited for our defense. When you’re around the football, good things happen.”
The Scarlet Knights had only four first downs and 41 yards in the first half. In the third quarter, Maryland used a field goal and Hill’s 8-yard TD pass to Jeshaun Jones to make it 34-0.
Earlier in the week, Canada bristled at the suggestion that the team relied too much on the run. Though Hill (8 for 17, 76 yards) and backup Tyrrell Pigrome (1 for 3, 9 yards) didn’t put up gaudy numbers, the three TD passes served as proof that Maryland can score through the air.
The running game, however, remains the team’s strength - and Johnson is the best of the lot. The senior ranks fourth in school history in yards rushing (2,564) and all-purpose yardage (4,081).
Only Torrey Smith, LaMont Jordan and Stefon Diggs have amassed more career yards than Johnson.
“What a tremendous honor for him to be in that category in the history of Maryland football,” Canada said.
Rutgers: The rebuilding Scarlet Knights have a long way to go toward being competitive in the Big Ten. Playing against a team that is anything but a powerhouse, Rutgers came up with a clunker of a performance.
Maryland: In a season dedicated to fallen offensive lineman Jordan McNair, the Terrapins continue to thrive under Canada, who’s running the show while DJ Durkin is on administrative leave. For at least a week, Canada won’t have to talk about the tepid passing game. Also, this victory leaves Maryland just two short of becoming bowl eligible.
Rutgers plays its homecoming game against Northwestern on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights are 3-0 in a series that started in 1919 and has been dormant since 1991.
Maryland travels to Iowa next Saturday. The teams last played in 2015, when Iowa won at home.
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