On its first drive of the second half, Maryland football was searching to find some offensive momentum against Minnesota who held onto a strong 24-10 lead. On fourth down with one yard to go, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa looked to tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo to make a big play. He slung the ball to the 50-yard line, but the tight end dropped the pass allowing the Gophers to take over on downs in a prime position to score.
With five and a half minutes remaining, the Golden Gophers then capped off a four-play drive with their fourth rushing touchdown of the day. The first career touchdown by running back Mar’Keise Irving also marked the fourth player to score a rushing touchdown for Minnesota on the day.
The Terps could not stop Minnesota’s running game as they allowed it to pick up 326 rushing yards and score four rushing touchdowns en route to a 34-16 loss.
“Today was not good enough. Not good enough from a coaching standpoint, not good enough from a performance standpoint, you know, we say, oftentimes say that it’s our jobs as coaches to teach and demand and it’s the players' job to prepare for them and we didn’t get that done today,” head coach Michael Locksley said.
“For us to have two weeks to prepare for this game and to come out and execute the way we did was very very disappointing and we’ve got to do is figure out how to get this thing fixed.”
Maryland came off the bye week following consecutive losses against then-No. 5 Iowa and then-No. 7 Ohio State. The Terps were looking to bounce back and find their fifth win of the season.
Tagovailoa and the Terps offense got off to a quick start on the opening drive. However, a few plays into the drive, the quarterback scrambled up the middle and got caught in traffic. As Tagovailoa succumbed to the sack, Minnesota stripped the ball and recovered on Maryland’s 49-yard line.
On Minnesota’s first offensive possession, quarterback Tanner Morgan slung the ball down the field in the direction of Jakorian Bennett who made a play too early, drawing the Terps’ first penalty of the game in a pass interference call. However, Minnesota missed failed to capitalize on the turnover, missing a 50-yard field goal attempt to keep the game scoreless.
With two of Tagovailoa’s go-to receivers out in Dontay Demus Jr. and Jeshaun Jones, Maryland looked for new ways to open up its offense.
On the second drive of the day, the Terps moved down the field which included a 38-yard completion to wide receiver Rakim Jarrett. Tagovailoa continued to inch toward the end zone with a 6-yard catch by Okonkwo to put the ball on Minnesota’s 5-yard line. However, on that play, running back Tayon Fleet-Davis was flagged for a pass interference call. The penalty brought the Terps back to Minnesota’s 26-yard line on third down and they could not convert.
Kicker Joseph Petrino’s 47-yard field goal attempt was good and the Terps took the 3-0 lead.
However, on Minnesota’s next drive, Morgan marched the Gophers down the field 52 yards in 10 plays as they knocked through a field goal to tie the game at three apiece. For the Terps, the defensive drive consisted of four tackles from lineman Sam Okuayinonu including one on second-and-10 that forced the third-and-8 in which Minnesota receiver Mike Brown-Stephens dropped a pass to bring on the field goal unit.
Maryland had the opportunity to take the lead on the next drive but couldn't find the points. Center Aric Harris moved before the whistle on third down as yet another flag was thrown against the Terps. On third-and-11, Tagovailoa targeted Okonkwo but could not complete the pass under pressure, forcing the Terps to punt.
With less than 20 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Minnesota played to its strengths as Ky Thomas rushed down the left side of the field picking up 38 yards until defensive back Tarheeb Still pushed him out of bounce at Maryland’s 30-yard line.
On the opening play of the second quarter, Minnesota broke through Maryland’s defense again, this time with a 21-yard rush. The Gopher’s continued to move the chains as the seven-play drive ended with a two-yard rushing touchdown. The extra point was good, putting Minnesota ahead, 10-3. On that drive, Minnesota hit 100 rushing yards, well on pace to hit its average of 190.7 per game.
The Terps tried to respond but could not get anything going. On first down, Tagovailoa targeted wide receiver Darryl Jones on a deep pass but it was broken up by the Gophers. After a one-yard rushing play, Tagovailoa was sacked and the Terps punted the ball away. An illegal motion penalty against Maryland gave the Gophers the ball on their own 32-yard line.
“The penalties, they do kill us, and at times, they put us in bad situations,” linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II said. “We got to look at the tape and that starts in practice.”
Minnesota moved the ball down the field with ease and another 15-yard penalty on the Terps for holding helped it do so. The Gophers capped off the drive with seven points thanks to a 10-yard rushing touchdown extending its lead to 17-3.
Down by two scores with about eight minutes, Tagovailoa gathered his composure and led the offense to a response. After moving down the field 12 yards, on 2nd and 10, Tagovailoa dropped back and completed a 43-yard pass into the red zone to receiver Marcus Fleming.
A couple of plays later, Fleet-Davis rushed it in for the touchdown and as the extra point sailed through the uprights, Maryland cut the Gophers’ lead to 17-10.
When the Terps had the opportunity to cut Minnesota off on the next drive, Okuayinonu had a big sack on fourth down, but it was erased as Maryland once again was penalized, this time a holding call on Still.
Just when it looked like Minnesota was in a position to go for the end zone again, with four seconds remaining in the half, the Gophers’ opted to go for the 38-yard field goal attempt. Still redeemed himself following his holding penalty as he made a leaping block.
Minnesota walked into the locker room empty-handed as they held onto the seven-point lead.
Maryland had trouble containing Minnesota’s run game as it allowed 175 rushing yards in the first half and the troubles continued in the second half as Minnesota continued to play with six offensive linemen.
To start the second half, Minnesota drained the clock moving the ball down the field 75 yards in 11 plays in over six minutes to further extend its lead, 24-10. On Maryland’s next drive it turned the ball over on downs deep in its territory giving Minnesota prime position to score yet again.
The Gophers rushed into the end zone with five and a half minutes remaining and the extra point put them up 31-10. The touchdown from Irving marked the fourth rushing touchdown of the day for Minnesota.
The Gophers continued to break through in the final quarter as the Terps scored just once in the second half thanks to a 17-yard touchdown pass from Tagovailoa to Fleming in the final two minutes of the game.
The game was already out of reach at that point for the Terps as they failed to convert on the two-point attempt.
“I mean you see three losses like this. I mean, it’s actually terrible in my opinion,” Jarrett said referring to Maryland’s losses to Iowa, Ohio State and now Minnesota. “We’re gonna have to get to practice and get back to work.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland continues to commit costly penalties. Maryland’s discipline issues have been a theme all season for the Terps and it seems to have continued after the bye week. In the first seven minutes of the game, Maryland was called on two pass interference penalties, both on the offense and the defense. Those two calls cost the Terps 30 yards and put Petrino in a position to kick a field goal rather than Tagovailoa picking up seven points. Maryland closed out the first 30 minutes of play with six penalties, three on each side of the ball, costing them 65 yards.
The flags continued to pile on for the Terps in the second half. They finished the game with a total of eight penalties costing them 79 yards.
2. Tagovailoa’s performance was affected without some of his top receivers. The quarterback finished the first half by completing seven of his 10 attempted passes for 116 yards. In the second half, Tagovailoa could not find any momentum. On his first drive of the third quarter, the Terps had to convert on fourth-and-one deep in their territory and his pass to Okonkwo was once again incomplete resulting in a turnover on downs.
Tagovailoa finished the day completing 17 of his 27 attempted passes for 189 yards, one touchdown and zero turnovers.
3. Maryland’s bowl game chances just got slimmer. Maryland returns home next week to take on Indiana. After that, the Terps have another stretch of games in which they face three top-10 opponents. Maryland will take on No. 7 Penn State on Nov. 6, No. 9 Michigan State on Nov. 13 and No. 6 Michigan on Nov. 20. The Terps will then close out the season against Rutgers on the road.
Although Penn State fell to Illinois in nine overtime periods, this next stretch of games for Maryland is not going to be easy. In order to qualify for a bowl game, the Terps will have to find two wins in its remaining slate of games.
“It starts with the accountability piece and that’s everybody,” Locksley said. “Everybody needs to really take a deep look into themselves and make sure that you’re doing everything you can in your power to prepare and give yourself a chance to win on Saturday.”