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Three takeaways from Maryland football’s road loss to Wisconsin

The Terps came out flat in a big road game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 Maryland at Wisconsin Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Maryland football had a weak performance in its game at Wisconsin Saturday, falling 23-10. Despite the relatively competitive final score, the Badgers controlled the flow of the game and were comfortably ahead for most all of the second half.

The Terps moved to 6-3 on the season, the Badgers 5-4.

Here are three takeaways from the game.

Maryland’s offense was nowhere to be found.

Coming off the bye week, the Terps were excited for the return of starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. Redshirt freshman Billy Edwards Jr. started and won the team’s game against Northwestern, but Tagovailoa provides a more composed and dynamic passer under center.

Or so Maryland thought.

Dealing with adverse weather conditions, it was the worst performance of Tagovailoa’s career, maybe with the exception of his five-interception performance against Iowa. He was entirely ineffective, only completing 10 passes for 77 yards — 42 of which came on Maryland’s final drive of the game. He also had a very ill-advised interception in the third quarter and very well could’ve had a few more if the ball wasn’t too slick for Wisconsin’s players to catch.

The Terps started out as cold as could be and were apathetic on offense in the first half, only totaling 56 total yards and gaining just two first downs. On the few times that he was given an opportunity to pass, Tagovailoa looked uncomfortable and missed his targets, much due to the pressure from the Badgers.

Maryland’s offensive line couldn’t protect its quarterback, as Tagovailoa was sacked as many times as he completed a pass in the first half (3). It also failed to do much for the running backs, as Maryland only had 34 first-half rushing yards. Time after time, Tagovailoa would hand off to redshirt freshmen Roman Hemby and Antwain Littleton II or freshman Ramon Brown or and they would be tackled in the backfield for a loss or at best after a gain of just a few yards.

Also, with redshirt junior offensive lineman Mason Lunsford out, freshman Coltin Deery saw time at center and really struggled snapping the ball, consistently spiking it into the ground or sailing it over Tagovailoa’s head. His mistakes were costly, on one occasion turning a promising drive into a field goal instead of a potential touchdown.

Maryland will need to better all-around on offense moving forward or it will continue to pay the price.

The Terps couldn’t stop the run.

As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours. On a rainy day in Madison, the Badgers poured it on the Terps running the ball.

To start the game, it looked like neither team was going to be able to get anything going on offense. But then, Wisconsin found a groove rushing, piling up 278 yards on the ground, including an 89-yard touchdown run by Isaac Guerendo down the right sideline.

The strength of Wisconsin’s team for years has been its rushing attack, and this year’s Maryland defense struggles most mightily against the run. It was evident against Michigan when Blake Corum exploded for 246 rushing yards and two touchdowns. It was clear against a bad Northwestern team when the Wildcats had 215 rushing yards, and most recently, it was obvious when the Badgers rattled off 211 rushing yards in just the first half.

Wisconsin averaged six yards per rush and at times was rushing for big gains at will. The Badgers noticed this early and rode it to victory, rushing nearly 30 more times than they passed. Passing the ball was incredibly difficult given the conditions, and Wisconsin junior quarterback Graham Mertz only completed five passes the whole game, rendering the air attack virtually nonexistent. The Terps not selling out on the run and making the Badgers beat them through the air was confusing, as that is exactly what Wisconsin did to get the win.

If things don’t get cleaned up quickly on the defensive side of the ball, Penn State running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen will have their way next week.

The most important month of the season started off poorly.

The month of November was circled as the most important for Maryland this season. After Saturday’s game at Wisconsin, Maryland now has to travel to Penn State and host Ohio State, setting up a brutal pair of matchups against two of the Big Ten’s best. The Terps will still likely be favored against Rutgers to end the season, but what was looked at as a potential opportunity to improve on last year’s result now looks bleak.

The Terps finished last regular season 6-6, and reached the six-win threshold before the calendar flipped to November for the first time in over a decade this year. A 7-5 clip would be a slight improvement from 2021, but considering the preseason expectations and the way that the schedule seemed to shape up favorably, Maryland has had every opportunity to get to at least eight wins by season’s end.

Saturday’s game was the key to making that happen. The Badgers, despite playing better as of late under Jim Leonhard, are not as good as they have been in years past and were only a slight favorite entering the matchup. Maryland couldn’t get anything to work, though, making the Badgers look unstoppable.

Now, it looks unlikely that Maryland will make a real statement this season. It’ll be a sizable underdog at Penn State next week and an even bigger one against Ohio State the week after. The season finale versus Rutgers should be a win, but a 7-5 season — especially considering the roster turnover expected for next season — would be a missed opportunity for a program looking to break free from its reputation as a bottom-feeder in the Big Ten.

Coming off a 3-0 start and a one-score loss at Michigan, the Terps looked dangerous enough to potentially play in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Now, that’s a longshot unless they can pull off a stunning upset against either of the two top-15 teams it has coming up on its schedule. After all the talk about this year’s team being able to reset expectations for the program, Maryland finds itself right back where it usually is — needing a major upset to change the narrative.