Maryland football once again fell to a ranked opponent, this time in No. 8 Michigan State, and dropped to 5-5 on the season.
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa completed 29 of his 48 attempted passes for 350 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, however, Maryland’s defense let up 481 total yards and six touchdowns en route to the loss.
“I think just being in this experience, we call it building a toolbox and again, you know, you play teams like we’ve had to play the last few weeks, obviously teams that are ranked,” head coach Micahel Locksley said. “It gives our players the experience of knowing ‘When I get put in a situation, this is how I’ve got to respond, this is how I’ve got to execute it and again,
Here are some takeaways from Maryland’s fifth loss of the season.
Maryland could not capitalize on its opportunities
At the end of the first quarter, Maryland was just down by six points and entering halftime, Michigan State was winning by less than two touchdowns meaning the game was not far out of Maryland’s reach out of halftime.
However, the Terps scored just seven points in the second half, zero in the fourth quarter, and had some costly mistakes along the way that made it difficult for them to catch back up.
“It’s a sick feeling in your stomach knowing that you probably should have won the game,” tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo said.
At the start of the third quarter, Maryland was in the red zone with an opportunity to close Michigan State’s lead to less than a touchdown. As the play clock was winding down, Tagovailoa stepped back, fired a pass to the end zone where Michigan State’s Noah Harvey was ready on the goal line as he intercepted the ball.
“This is a second week in a row where I thought the second half we had some opportunities to cut into a one possession game and kind of keep it right there in there in the hip pocket to give ourselves a chance late in the game, but you know, our execution,” Locksley said.
After not forcing a turnover since September, Maryland’s defense forced two turnovers in less than 10 plays, however, the offense could not find the end zone to give the Terps the opportunity to get back in the game.
Less than 10 minutes after Tagovailoa threw the pick in the red zone, Maryland defensive lineman Ami Finau stripped the ball from Michigan State setting up the fumble recovery for defensive back Tarheeb Still. Tagovailoa marched the Terps down the field and less than three minutes later, though kicker Joseph Petrino missed the 41-yard field goal which would’ve cut it a two-possession game.
Maryland was unable to pull together all the loose pieces and had a number of self-inflicted mistakes en route to the defeat making the climb to six wins even steeper.
The Terps once again drew costly penalities
Maryland had 13 penalties— four on the offensive end and nine on the defense.
“We played hard, played relentless but we also got to play smart,” defensive lineman Sam Okuayinonu said. “And that’s the piece that gotta work on.”
Three of the penalties that came against the offense were intentional grounding calls in the third and fourth quarters. Tagovailoa was pressured a number of times during the matchup and the quarterback resorted to throwing the ball away rather than taking the sack which resulted in the penalties.
The other offensive penalty came early in the fourth quarter on fourth down when tight end Corey Dyches moved before the snap drawing the false start penalty costing the Terps five yards. Dyches’ false start moved the offense back and turned a fourth-and-7 into a fourth-and-12. On that play, Tagovailoa targeted Rakim Jarrett but couldn't the two couldn’t connect as the Terps turned the ball over on downs in Michigan State’s territory.
On the defensive end, the penalties started early in the game with back-to-back face mask penalties in the first quarter costing 15 yards each.
In the second quarter, Maryland was called for holding, roughing the passer, pass interference, illegal substitution and two offsides calls. The final call on Maryland’s defense came in the fourth quarter when linebacker Branden Jennings drew an unnecessary roughness play costing the Terps an additional nine yards.
This has been a theme of the season as now Maryland’s penalty total climbs up to 70 over the course of 10 games as its opponents have accumulated 63 in total.
“This team plays relentless, effort and passion,” Okonkwo said. “It’s just we got to clean up the small details like little details that seem to always get us.”
Maryland continues to struggle against top-10 opponents
The Terps have already had three chances to win against top-10 opponents this season but have yet to be able to seal the deal.
Earlier this season, it was the back-to-back losses against then-No. 5 Iowa and then-No. 7 Ohio State. Neither game was close. The Terps fell to the Hawkeyes, 51-14 and the following week lost to Iowa, 66-17.
Following the Ohio State loss, Locksley expressed he didn’t feel the team was at the point yet where they could pull off the upset.
“I felt we could have executed better,” Locksley said. “We played No. 5 and No. 7 [ranked teams in the country] and we’re obviously not there yet. We have a lot of work to do as a program.”
Since then, the Terps fell to Minnesota who was unranked at the time, defeated Indiana at home and then fell again to then-No. 22 Penn State, a team that Maryland stuck with up until the fourth quarter.
Against the Spartans, Maryland once again had opportunities to keep the game close and let it slip away due to self-inflicted mistakes.
Now, the Terps have the opportunity to change the narrative once more on their home field against No. 9 Michigan when it honors their seniors on Nov. 20.
“As coaches when we come back in there Monday got an opportunity this weekend back at home for the last time for our seniors to find a way to get to the number six to get us to become one we’re gonna be bold eligible and continue to build on with the system your class has kind of done for us the last couple of years,” Locksley said.