Maryland dominates Virginia Tech in 2021 New Era Pinstripe Bowl

December 29th, 2021

The 2021 New Era Pinstripe Bowl featured two programs that are pretty familiar with one another. Before Maryland landed in the Big Ten Conference, the Terrapins and Virginia Tech had an intense rivalry in the ACC, where the Hokies still reside. In 31 games dating back to 1919, Maryland holds a 16-15 victory edge.

In the 11th installment of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl from Yankee Stadium, Maryland defeated Virginia Tech, 54-10. The 54 points set a Pinstripe Bowl record that belonged to Duke in 2015, and the 54 points is also a Maryland bowl record.

The fireworks started early. After a three-and-out from Virginia Tech, Tarheeb Still returned the punt 92 yards to put Maryland on the board with 12:44 left in the first half. The punt return established a new Pinstripe Bowl record and was the longest punt return in program history. That was the only scoring in the first quarter for either team, despite Virginia Tech dominating time of possession by over nine minutes in the first 15 minutes of play.

Virginia Tech pulled out a trick play as punter Peter Moore took the snap and ran eight yards to get the Hokies a first down to keep their drive alive. Two plays later, Connor Blumrick completed a 42-yard pass to Jaden Payoute to give Virginia Tech another first down. The drive stalled as Virginia Tech settled for a John Parker Romo 36-yard field goal to get the Hokies on the board.

Maryland immediately answered on the first play of their drive, as Taulia Tagovailoa threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Darryl Jones to increase Maryland’s lead. The Terrapins were not done as Antwain Littleton II capped a quick five-pay drive with a four-yard touchdown run to give Maryland a 21-3 lead.

Virginia Tech used the last part of the first half to put together their drive of the game as tight end Nick Gallo became a favorite target of Blumrick catching two passes for first downs. Malachi Thomas’ 34-yard catch put the Hokies inside Maryland’s five-yard line. Blumrick finished the 13-play, 75-yard drive with a three-yard RPO run to give Virginia Tech their first touchdown of the day.

Maryland was not done with 59 seconds left in the first half. Tagovailoa drove the Terrapins 60 seconds in 53 seconds to set up a Joseph Petrino 44-yard field goal to give Maryland a 24-10 lead into the locker room.

After Maryland picked up a field goal on their first possession of the second half, the Hokies went three and out. Tagovailoa found Jones again on a fourth down and four for a 32-yard touchdown to give the Terps a 34-10 lead on the ensuing possession. Jones, who came into the game with zero career touchdowns, finished with 111 yards receiving and his first two collegiate touchdowns.

“We've been waiting a long time for a game like this, and it's only fitting that he would get it in his last game as a Terp and score two touchdowns after not scoring for four years,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley said. “I think it just shows, again, the resiliency that this senior group has shown. He is kind of a byproduct of a group of guys that maybe have been through a lot, but just have kept their heads down, continued to work. Really happy for Darryl that he was able to finish on such a strong note, and I know he played a major role in getting this thing started, so proud of Darryl.”

The third quarter was a display of timely passing from Tagovailoa and Maryland’s running game awakening after a dormant first half. Roman Hemby scored on a two-yard touchdown run as the rout was on for Maryland. Meanwhile, in the third quarter, Virginia Tech could not move the ball, picking up just ten yards on seven plays from scrimmage (3:04 T.O.P.).

“They just made adjustments. We make adjustments. They make adjustments,” said Blumrick after the game. “They kind of figured out what we were trying to do, and it didn't really go our way the second half.

The defense got into the scoring columns on the first play of the fourth quarter. Greg Rose scored on an 11-yard fumble recovery after a Nick Cross sack on Blumrick forced a fumble to make the score 47-10. Colby McDonald added a 20-yard touchdown run to finish the scoring with 1:12 left in the game.

Tagovailoa finished 20-of-24 with 265 yards passing and two touchdowns as Maryland picked up their 12th bowl game victory in program history and first since 2010. Linebacker Ruben Hyppolite finished with 12 total tackles to lead the defense.

“Coming into this game, we knew what was at stake,” said Tagovailoa who was named Pinstripe Bowl MVP. “It means a lot. I feel like our Maryland family has waited a long time for us to win games. It’s hard to stay patient.”

“I hope it quiets some of the critics and he gets the respect he deserves,” said Locksley. “We wouldn’t be in this situation if it wasn’t for Taulia. I’m really proud of him and how he responded. He’s had a positive impact on others.”

Blumrick finished with 111 yards of total offense and the lone touchdown for the Hokies. Despite winning the time of possession 34:28 to 25:32, they managed just four yards per play and less than three yards per running play as Maryland’s defense was too much for Virginia Tech.

“Obviously disappointed in the outcome, but not disappointed in these players,” said Virginia Tech interim head coach J.C. Price. “One game does not define who those guys are in that locker room.”

For a program that went through a lot before the arrival of Locksley, the head coach attributed much of the success this season to the upperclassmen that went through the trials and tribulations of the prior staff at Maryland.

“I can’t put into words how proud I am of this team,” Locksley said. “As I told the seniors before the game, we will be forever indebted to those guys because they really put this thing on a foundation that I think showed the trajectory of what the program can be. We’ve come a long way as a program since 2019.”