NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Michael Locksley has been at Maryland long enough to know his Terrapins have to earn everything. The transfer portal, along with name, image and likeness deals, has only made the challenge tougher.
So Maryland showed Saturday the best answer comes on the field.
Billy Edwards Jr. ran for a touchdown and threw for a score as Maryland routed Auburn 31-13 at the Music City Bowl, winning a program-record third straight bowl.
“Three straight bowl wins, back-to-back eight-win seasons,” Locksley said. “It’s not easy to do here.”
Maryland (8-5) added this victory to its win over Virginia Tech at the Pinstripe Bowl and last year’s Duke’s Mayo Bowl win over North Carolina State.
The Terrapins hadn’t played a Southeastern Conference team in a bowl since routing Tennessee 30-3 in the 2002 Peach Bowl. This game essentially was over before the end of the first quarter, even without Taulia Tagovailoa, the Big Ten’s passing leader this season who opted out for the NFL draft.
Auburn (6-7) ended coach Hugh Freeze’s first season back in the SEC losing three straight. The Tigers also lost a fourth straight bowl and their first in three appearances in this bowl, now sponsored by TransPerfect.
“I don’t need anyone to tell me that we don’t measure up, and that starts with me,” Freeze said.
Maryland dominated from the opening snap, taking a 21-0 lead as the Terrapins outgained Auburn 226-13 within the first 12 minutes. The Terrapins also forced four turnovers, keyed by Glendon Miller’s 44-yard pick six.
“I ran for my life,” Miller said while wearing sunglasses postgame as part of his NIL deal.
Roman Hemby took Edwards’ short pass 61 yards, and Edwards capped the opening drive with a 2-yard TD run. After Maryland right tackle Gottlieb Ayedze recovered a fumble on the next drive, Edwards ran for 17 yards before throwing a 5-yard TD pass to Preston Howard for a 14-0 lead.
“They honestly went by very fast,” Edwards said of the first two drives.
Locksley alternated quarterbacks as promised, and Cameron Edge keyed a 76-yard drive with a 57-yard pass to Kaden Prather before hitting Dylan Wade with a 3-yard TD toss for the 21-0 lead with 3:24 left in the first quarter.
Payton Thorne got Auburn on the board, capping a 14-play drive with a 3-yard TD pass to Brandon Frazier with 2:34 left in the first half.
Freshman Hank Brown did his best to make it interesting late in his collegiate debut. He set up Jeremiah Cobb’s 1-yard run in the fourth with a 53-yard pass to Caleb Burton, and another late drive ended on a turnover on downs at the Maryland 15.
Auburn: Freeze had a lot of key Tigers missing, including center Avery Jones, defensive tackle Marcus Harris, cornerbacks Nehemiah Pritchett and DJ James and safety Jaylin Simpson. Harris and Simpson were All-SEC picks, with Simpson leading Auburn with four interceptions while Harris had a team-high seven sacks. Simpson, Harris, Pritchett and James plan to enter the NFL draft.
The Tigers also lost four wide receivers to the transfer portal, the biggest Ja’Varrius Johnson.
Maryland: Locksley got a good look at his options to replace Tagovailoa for 2024. The competition will only increase with MJ Morris, who announced his decision to transfer from North Carolina State to the Terps a couple of weeks ago.
Thorne is returning, and Freeze signed California quarterback Sam Freeman out of the portal with plans to use him at receiver. But Brown played well enough that Freeze said the competition to start will be “wide open” come spring practices.
“I think Hank has something to him,” Freeze said of a quarterback who threw for 47 TDs with three interceptions as a high school senior in the Nashville area.