Maryland football snapped its three-game losing streak with a 38-35 win at home over a struggling and depleted Indiana team that has yet to win a game in the Big Ten.
The last few weeks had been disastrous for the Terps, losing the three games by a combined score of 104. But on Saturday, the script was flipped as Maryland’s offense was clicking and quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa had a performance reminiscent of his early-season success.
“We needed it [the win],” head coach Mike Locksley said. “The players deserved it. ... This week, they really worked hard and we continue to challenge them each and everyday as coaches.”
It was a must-win game for the Terps, who kept their bowl game hopes alive and moved to 5-3 on the season, with a difficult stretch coming up. Let’s dive into some takeaways from the game and the rest of the season.
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa had his best performance in weeks
Taulia Tagovailoa got off to a terrific start to the season that garnered national attention and even some Heisman discussion. That quickly came to an end after a disastrous, five-interception performance against Iowa in week five.
Since then, Tagovailoa has slowly been progressing to get back to the level of play he was at to start the season, albeit against stronger competition and without two of his top weapons in Dontay Demus Jr. and Jeshaun Jones. Locksley said he thought Tagovailoa’s performance last week in a loss to Minnesota was “as close to what he’s been.”
The culmination of that progress was on full display on Saturday as Tagovailoa put up one of his most complete performances of the season, throwing for a season-high 419 yards.
To go along with the passing yards, Tagovailoa was 26-40 with a 65% completion percentage and two touchdowns. It was his fourth 300-yard passing game this season.
Some of the regression from Tagovailoa has been due to an inexperienced wide receiver room that has been depleted due to injuries. For the last few weeks, the junior gun-slinger has been trying to find weapons he can rely on, which has sometimes been a struggle.
Against the Hoosiers, Tagovailoa distributed the wealth. Rakim Jarrett, who everyone expected to step into the number one receiver role in the absence of Demus, was quiet the last few weeks. However, Jarrett had five receptions for 88 yards on Saturday.
Receivers Carlos Carriere had a monstrous day and Marcus Fleming stepped up for the Terps with eight and four receptions for 134 and 70 yards, respectively. Carriere also had two touchdowns in his breakout performance.
“The main focus is to help the team and just being ready for my teammates whenever my numbers called,” Carriere said.
Running back Tayon Fleet-Davis was also a factor in the passing game with three receptions for 64 yards, including a 45-yard catch-and-run.
Maryland might have finally turned a corner on its penalty problem
Maryland has had its fair share of issues throughout all phases all season, but nothing has been more frustrating for the coaching staff and Maryland fans than the avoidable yellow flags that rain in on Maryland every week.
Locksley consistently talks about the problem and how everyone must be held accountable to correct it. Well, on Saturday, Maryland might have finally turned the corner in limiting drive-halting penalties that make it impossible for the Terps to compete with Big Ten opponents.
Maryland averaged 6.8 penalties per game going into the Indiana matchup. At halftime on Saturday, Maryland had only committed one penalty in the game. They finished with five penalties on the afternoon.
It was Maryland who was the beneficiary of the whistle against Indiana, as the Hoosiers were flagged for seven penalties that cost them 66 yards.
If this really is an indicator of progress in discipline the team has made, Maryland will be in a much better position moving forward.
“That was a big emphasis for us this week,” defensive lineman Mosiah Nasili-Kite said. “Be penalty free, you know, just trying not to beat ourselves.”
Maryland kept its bowl hopes alive in a must-win game with a brutal schedule on the horizon
Maryland took care of business at home to snap its three-game losing streak and pick up its second Big Ten win on the season. Four games still remain on the schedule, but this one against Indiana felt like a must-win, primarily due to the difficult schedule the Terps will face over the next few weeks.
While Halloween will be in the rearview, Maryland’s scariest stretch of games is on the horizon in November. The Terps will take on three of the best teams in the Big Ten over the next three weeks. First up is No. 20 Penn State at home next Saturday. Although Maryland upset the Nittany Lions last year, that was a much different Penn State opponent. Penn State is a far superior team and program than Maryland and will be hungry for revenge, despite proving they are susceptible to an upset this season when they lost to Illinois at home in nine overtimes last weekend.
Maryland will then travel to No. 8 Michigan State in another game where they are expected to be massive underdogs. The Spartans have had one of their best starts to a season in years, capping off an 8-0 start with a win over Michigan earlier today. Maryland will have to play a flawless game when they head into East Lansing if they want a chance to shock the conference.
The brutal three-game stretch for Maryland concludes with a home game against No. 6 Michigan. The Wolverines are also having one of their best starts to a season in recent memory, despite falling to Michigan State earlier today to move to 7-1.
Unless Locksley’s squad is able to pull off a monumental upset in one of those games, they will likely head into the last game of the season against Rutgers one game short of the six-win benchmark that makes them bowl eligible. That would mean the final game of the season on the road against Rutgers would be a must-win for Maryland to have a chance to keep its season alive.
This prospective scenario is weeks away from coming to fruition, but for now, what we do know is Maryland kept its season alive in a must-win game over a depleted Indiana team on Saturday afternoon.