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Grading Maryland football’s positions after its loss to No. 8 Michigan

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The defense gave up its second-highest point total of the season.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Michigan at Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Maryland football had another chance to prove that it can compete with the elite programs in the Big Ten. But once again, the Terps faltered on their home field against a top-10 opponent.

No. 8 Michigan came into College Park and easily dealt with Maryland, crushing it by a score of 59-18. Make that now five losses versus ranked teams in 2021 for the 5-6 Terps, who now have just one game to prove that they can become bowl eligible.

Maryland is in the midst of a three-game losing streak with a matchup against Rutgers looming on the horizon. The Scarlet Knights are also 5-6. This will be a battle for bowl eligibility next Saturday.

But before looking at anything with the Rutgers game, let’s take a look at this week’s positional grades for Maryland.

Quarterback

Against one of the best defenses in the Big Ten, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa didn’t have a very inefficient performance. The Wolverines did an excellent job of flustering Tagovailoa in the pocket and the final results showed just how dominant the Michigan defense was this past Saturday.

The junior finished 19-of-33 in the passing game for 178 yards and one touchdown. The touchdown came when the game was already out of reach in the third quarter, as Tagovailoa couldn’t muster much success in the first half when it mattered most. Missed throws and drops led to just 87 passing yards in the first half for the signal-caller. He was shut down, for the most part, the rest of the way, and Michigan even picked off Tagovailoa in the closing moments of the third frame and took it back for six.

Tagovailoa also added a 17-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter, though it was in vain. He continues to be fairly ineffective against the top teams in the conference, but the same could be said for just about every aspect of the program. He’ll have one more week to figure it out with the most important game coming against Rutgers.

Grade: C-

Running back

It seems to be a common theme that Maryland’s offense shifts to a pass-heavy scheme when it’s down by a significant amount on the scoreboard, but this time around against a ranked team, the Terps committed heavily to the rushing attack when the game was out of reach in the third quarter.

Redshirt senior running back Tayon Fleet-Davis had the most productive day out of the backfield, taking 11 carries for 71 yards, which comes out to over six yards per carry. Maryland fans also got an extended look at freshman Colby McDonald. McDonald rushed the ball 18 times for just 68 yards. Maryland ended with 181 rushing yards in total and a 4.1 yards per carry clip.

All things considered, the running backs had a fairly average day on the ground against a solid rush defense.

Grade: C+

Wide receiver

There were not too many positives for this program’s wide receiver corps on senior day. Tagovailoa can only do so much to combat one of the conference’s premier scoring defenses, and his wide receivers didn’t offer much support.

Rakim Jarrett was locked up for the majority of the game and he tallied just 20 yards off two catches. Senior Carlos Carriere was the best wideout on Saturday, collecting four catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. But again, it’s the lack of depth at the position that put the offense in a bad spot all evening.

Brian Cobbs had four catches and Darryl Jones had one, but their performances weren't good enough. The wide receivers combined for just 139 yards, which was not nearly the amount of production the Terps needed to keep it close with a superior Michigan team.

Grade: D-

Tight end

Maryland’s best receiving option in the passing game over the past few weeks has been senior tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo. However, just like the rest of the offense, the senior wasn’t able to come away with much on the field.

Okonkwo had a team-high five catches for 36 yards and he led the team in targets yet again. He has emerged as a threat in Maryland’s aerial attack recently but in this game he did just about as much as he could’ve.

Then looking at sophomore Corey Dyches, he failed to record a catch in the contest, though Tagovailoa overthrew him in the end zone on what would’ve been an easy touchdown in the first half. The tight ends will need a big bounce back in the season finale.

Grade: C

Offensive line

Maryland’s offensive line, a unit that has forced Tagovailoa to be on the run for the majority of passing downs over the last seven or so games, didn’t do the program any favors this past weekend.

The Wolverines managed only two sacks, but if it weren't for the junior quarterback’s developing rushing ability, then it easily could have been more. Penalties also continue to haunt this unit. The offensive line racked up four of the six total offensive penalties that Maryland committed.

Two false starts, a chop block and a single holding call rounded out Maryland’s flags thrown on its offensive line. The effort at the line of scrimmage did help Maryland to over four yards per rush, but the Terps’ offensive line was no match for what the Wolverines brought at it.

Grade: C-

Defensive line

Unlike the last few games, Maryland’s defensive line was held to a dead-silent performance in Saturday’s loss. The Terps were one of the best teams in the conference about halfway through the year with total sacks, but their overall production this time around set it back.

Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara barely faced any sort of pressure from the defensive line and he had all the time in the world in the pocket at certain moments. The unit didn’t muster one sack or even a tackle for a loss in the defeat.

The Wolverines’ rushing game also operated without much resistance. Michigan punched it in the end zone on three separate occasions when running the ball right into the heart of Maryland’s defense. The Wolverines ended with 151 rushing yards. It was by no means a good day for the defensive line and it’ll look to recover next week.

Grade: D

Linebacker

The linebackers were another position that had a weak game. Michigan did whatever it pleased on offense and the Terps’ defense, along with the linebackers, had no response for what the Wolverines offered on its 59-point night.

The low-light for the group came when junior linebacker Ahmad McCullogh was burned on a wheel route late in the third quarter for a 77-yard Wolverines’ touchdown. The linebackers also failed to record a sack again and they also didn’t have an answer for the Wolverines’ rushing attack up the middle for the most part.

The defense has been mightily struggling over the last month and a half or so, and a good portion of the blame can be placed on the linebackers’ inability to make stops or any kind of game-changing plays.

Grade: C-

Secondary

Maryland's defensive backs have been beaten up ceaselessly dating back to the program’s home loss to then-No. 5 Iowa. Michigan, just like countless other Big Ten teams have this season against the Terps, worked its way through the air on offense with ease.

The secondary was flagged for just two penalties, but Michigan’s McNamara had an efficient day. McNamara went 21-for-28 and came up with 259 yards and two touchdowns. Michigan’s backups also had no trouble slicing up the Terps through the air, as any quarterback not named McNamara combined for 93 yards and a touchdown.

Maryland’s talent in the secondary has played well below expectations and coming away with just one pass breakup and no turnovers are enough for an elite team like Michigan to take advantage of.

Grade: D-

Special teams

This was an ugly game for Maryland on special teams. It has been a unit that has seen its fair share of errors in 2021 and Michigan forced the Terps into quite a few of those same mistakes in College Park.

The issues first started with a missed 48-yard field goal from senior kicker Joseph Petrino. Petrino went 1-for-2 on the day, but the initial miss was the critical one early in the game.

Michigan then blocked junior Anthony Pecorella’s punt in the second quarter, placing the Wolverines in Maryland’s territory. Michigan went on to score moments later which pushed the score to 21-3.

The problems just kept coming for Maryland. The Wolverines pulled a rabbit out of the hat with a miraculous kickoff lateral play that went for 79 yards and a touchdown. The special teams has been an issue all season, but this game was just about as bad as it gets from a Maryland standpoint.

Grade: F