Maryland football desperately needed a response in the third quarter after giving up 17 straight points to Indiana.
The Terps trailed 17-14 at the time, but a quick answer on offense propelled Maryland back into the driver’s seat. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa charged Maryland’s offense 74 yards down the field to Indiana’s one-yard line as the Terps had a critical fourth-and-goal opportunity.
With one yard separating Maryland from recapturing its lead, running back Challen Faamatau pounded his way into the end zone to give the Terps their third rushing touchdown of the afternoon.
After Faamatau’s touchdown, Maryland never gave up its lead, eventually closing out Indiana, 38-35, in College Park on Saturday.
“It definitely wasn’t a pretty game, but we’ll take it, we needed it,” head coach Michael Locksley said. “Our players deserved it. Obviously, a lot of things to still get cleaned up from it, but it’s always good when you can clean the mistakes up with a victory, you know, proud of how our guys fought and stuck together this week.”
Maryland improves to 5-3 with the win and it is now one win away from being bowl eligible. There are four games remaining in the Terps’ season and they will face Penn State next week at home.
After giving up an average of 50.3 points per game during its three-game skid to Big Ten opponents, Maryland’s defense took a turn for the better right out of the gates.
Senior defensive lineman Greg Rose capitalized on Indiana’s poor protection on third and long and came up with a sack to force the Hoosiers to a punt on their first drive of the quarter. Rose’s third sack of the season put Maryland in good field position on Indiana’s 35-yard line.
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa immediately marched the Terps down the field soon after. Senior tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo drew a defensive pass inference penalty to place Maryland on the one-yard line and redshirt senior running back Tayon Fleet-Davis capped off the Terps’ seven-play drive with a successful plunge into the end zone to give Maryland a 7-0 lead just four minutes into the game.
The defense’s success opened the door for Tagovailoa and the offense to explode in the first quarter. Midway through the opening frame, Tagovailoa lofted a well-thrown ball to running back Challen Faamatau who burst up the sideline for a 37-yard gain on the Terps’ second drive. Sophomore wide receiver Rakim Jarrett then drew the team’s second pass interference penalty putting Maryland in the red zone. Faamatau eventually found pay dirt on the ground for the Terps’ second one-yard touchdown as Maryland’s advantage ballooned to 14.
Tagovailoa, who finished 26-for-40 for 419 yards and two touchdowns, had an excellent start managing Maryland’s offense and looked poised. The junior started 6-for-6 for 81 yards through the air in the first quarter as the Terps found themselves in the driver’s seat.
Tagovailoa’s torrid run in the passing game continued on the next drive, backed by a 45-yard catch from Fleet-Davis, marking the second time a Maryland running back found space up along the sideline. Maryland’s drive was in vain, though, after kicker Joseph Petrino missed a field goal attempt from 40-yards out to keep it a two-possession game.
Indiana capitalized on Maryland’s misfire for three points and was finally able to break down Maryland’s defense. It took just seven plays for the Hoosiers to go 77 yards down the field, and running back Stephen Carr bulldozed his way into the end zone to cut the lead to 14-7 early in the second quarter.
Just over a minute later the Hoosiers managed to block and recover junior Anthony Pecorella’s punt on Maryland’s 13-yard line. However, a sack and an unsportsmanlike penalty pushed Indiana back, helping Maryland survive the threatening opportunity as Indiana kicker Charles Campell then swerved his 42-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Both offenses struggled to generate points as the game went along, but Indiana’s two-minute drill offense found a way to put points on the board just before the end of the half. Indiana’s Campbell had a chance to redeem himself, this time from a whopping 55-yards out, and he did just that. He knocked in the long-distance three-point try to reel the Hoosiers back within four points.
Despite the last-minute field goal, Maryland held Indiana’s offense in check over the last 10 minutes of the second quarter. The defense surrendered just 46 total yards over the last 10:57 of the half, allowing Maryland to hold a 14-10 lead going into the third quarter.
Maryland was held scoreless in the second quarter and its offense saw much more of the same in the opening minutes of the second half. The Terps held the ball for two minutes but were forced to punt to Indiana’s offense that immediately exploded after the initial stop.
Indiana found itself on its own 34-yard line, but Carr abruptly changed the outlook of the game with one play. The running back burst past the line of scrimmage into the open field with no one near him and ran all the way in for a 66-yard touchdown to gift the Hoosiers their first lead of the game.
Maryland offered a prompt response despite Indiana scoring 17 straight points and claiming a 17-14 advantage. Tagovailoa managed to bring the offense near the end zone after going 74 yards, one yard short of putting Maryland back up. Faamatau got the call on another fourth-and-one and this time he punched it in to award Maryland a 21-17 advantage with around eight minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Faamatau’s second touchdown of the day set up Maryland for even more success later in the quarter. Indiana was stopped on offense yet again, which then led to Maryland going all the way down the field and eventually into the end zone. The Terps’ eight-play, 67-yard drive finished with senior wide receiver Carlos Carriere scoring from 13-yards out. Maryland had its second double-digit lead of the afternoon after Carriere’s score with a 28-17 margin in its favor.
After Indiana made it a 28-20 game with a field goal in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, Carriere continued his breakout game for Maryland. Carriere had six catches for 77 yards coming into the Terps’ next drive, and he produced even more to grow Maryland’s lead. The senior corralled a dart from Tagovailoa and he dodged a few Hoosiers on his way to a pretty 45-yard touchdown.
Carriere’s second score of the game seemingly put the game out of reach as Maryland held a 35-20 lead with just over 12 minutes left in the final frame.
“That’s always the main goal is to help the team and just being ready... whenever my number is called,” Carriere said about his career day. “It’s truly a blessing.”
However, Indiana made things interesting with nine and a half minutes left, as it scored a touchdown and two-point conversion in just under three minutes and cut Maryland’s advantage to seven points.
Despite the late burst, Maryland hit a late field goal and claimed a 10-point lead. Indiana scored a touchdown with a minute remaining, but its lack of timeouts and failure to recover the onside kick let the Terps run the clock out in victory formation.
The duo of Tagovailoa and Carriere carried Maryland to the victory, the program’s first since Sept. 25. Tagovailoa finished with a career-high in passing yards, while Carriere ended with eight catches for 134 yards along with two touchdowns.
“It’s definitely a great feeling,” Faamatau said about getting back in the win column. “You know, it’s always a great feeling to win. The past three games, what was hard to swallow was that we were killing ourselves and we noticed that... we truly believe that if our margin of error is under a certain percent, we will definitely come up successful, like we did today.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s passing game received major assistance from the running backs. With wide receivers Dontay Demus Jr. and Jeshaun Jones both out for the remainder of the season, it was expected that Maryland would lean more on its running backs through the air. The running backs stepped up in a big way in this one to help out Tagovailoa. Fleet-Davis, Faamatau and freshman Colby McDonald combined for five catches and 101 yards that provided a huge boost to Maryland’s efforts in the passing game.
2. The Terps’ defense continues to give up plenty of yardage on the ground. After giving up over 300 yards on the ground to Minnesota on the road last Saturday, the Terps’ defense once again wasn’t well-equipped to stop the run, this time from Indiana’s rush attack. The Hoosiers finished with 204 yards on 42 total attempts, good enough for 4.9 yards per rush. Carr was a monster for Indiana. He compiled 136 rushing yards for two touchdowns on the afternoon.
3. Maryland is one win from bowl game contention. Simply put, Maryland needed this win after dropping its last three games. The Terps’ second half pushed them to their fifth win of the season and the program is now one win from being eligible for a bowl game. Maryland hasn't been to a bowl game since 2016. There are only four games remaining in the 2021 season with Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Rutgers left on the schedule.
“We need to build off this win,” Locksley said. “Obviously we've got an opponent coming in next week that we know all too well. It’s a great opportunity for us to kind of go back to neutral, refocus and like I said welcome Penn State into The Shell. Hopefully, we can get our fans out here to help come support next week to try to help us get to number six.”