Stepping down from elite programs has paved the way to success for two of the more prolific quarterbacks in the Football Bowl Subdivision this year — SMU’s Tanner Mordecai and Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa.
Saturday night in College Park, Md., when former Oklahoma backup Mordecai takes on former Alabama reserve Tagovailoa, it will be a matchup of quarterbacks guiding 2-0 teams that have yet to be tested.
In the third-ever meeting of the teams, expect more offense than in the first two games — a pair of Maryland wins in the 1960s in which the teams scored a combined 27 points.
Mordecai has thrown for 644 yards and seven touchdowns — ranking No. 11 in pass efficiency in the FBS — while Tagovailoa has thrown for 681 yards and four touchdowns to rank 13th in efficiency.
Both lead well-rounded offenses that average more than 500 yards and 40 points per game, though the competition has been suspect.
SMU is off to a quick start under new coach Rhett Lashlee with wins over North Texas, 48-10, and Football Championship Subdivision side Lamar, 45-16. Lashlee took over after former coach Sonny Dykes left for TCU.
“You all have seen our schedule,” Lashlee said. “The preseason’s over. It’s about to get real, both out of conference and in conference.”
Mordecai will look to receiver Rashee Rice, who has 17 catches for 298 yards and three touchdowns, and running backs TJ McDaniel and Velton Gardner, who have combined for 237 rushing yards and two touchdowns this season. Gardner missed the season opener against North Texas after ripping one of his contact lenses.
Maryland’s offense features a trio of veteran outside threats. Dontay Demus led the Terps in receptions and yards in 2019 and 2020. Rakim Jarrett led those categories last year. This year, that distinction belongs to another wideout, Jeshaun Jones.
The Terps’ top three running backs — two redshirt freshmen and a sophomore — each average at least 8.9 yards per carry.
“That backfield reminds me of the young group that our receivers were that now have become those veteran players,” Locksley said. “And I think they’ll continue to get better.”
For the second straight week, Maryland will be without starting cornerback and punt returner Tarheeb Still (finger), Locksley said on Tuesday. A platoon of Jones, Deonte Banks and Shadrick Byrd filled in for Still in the return game in the 56-21 win at Charlotte.
–Field Level Media