Maryland football fell to 6-3 with a 23-10 loss at Wisconsin on Saturday.
It wasn’t a pretty performance from the Terps, who struggled to adjust to rainy and windy conditions and came out flat from the start. The Badgers eventually found their groove and rode it to a home victory.
Here’s how each of Maryland’s position groups played.
Coming off an injury, Taulia Tagovailoa returned to the field for Maryland, supposedly jumpstarting the offense. Quite the opposite happened Saturday, as Tagovailoa had one of the worst performances of his career.
Tagovailoa completed just 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown, also throwing a bad interception, gifting Wisconsin the ball deep in Maryland territory. He was rendered almost entirely ineffective for most of the game and couldn’t seem to find any sort of rhythm.
Of course, the adverse weather conditions played a part, but Tagovailoa looked out of sorts even when a slick ball or wind wasn’t to blame. He was quick to leave the pocket and could’ve been picked off multiple times if Wisconsin’s defenders didn’t drop the ball as often as they did.
If Maryland wants any chance against Penn State this upcoming Saturday, it’ll need a much better performance from its quarterback.
Maryland’s running backs didn’t put together their greatest performance Saturday, rushing for a combined 101 yards on 28 carries. Roman Hemby had the most touches, followed by Ramon Brown and Antwain Littleton II.
The Terps weren’t able to establish the run early, only rushing for 34 yards in the first half. The running backs failed to make much happen and get out in space, in part due to conservative play-calling. Wisconsin’s run defense was simply too much for the young group, which failed to break tackles and get more than a yard or two on most carries.
Maryland needed a strong performance on the ground in a game where it couldn’t move the ball through the air and didn’t quite get it.
Maryland’s wideouts were almost completely ineffective against Wisconsin. The group had a total of just six catches for 38 yards on a day where passing was difficult.
The slick weather conditions clearly had an effect on the Terps, as wide receivers totaled four drops, led by Rakim Jarrett who had two.
Also, Tagovailoa, while sometimes too fast to tuck the ball and run, was rarely able to go to his first or second read due to an inability from the wide receivers to get separation. Wisconsin has a decent secondary, and it didn’t look like Maryland was up to the task.
Tai Felton did score a touchdown, but it was too little, too late.
CJ Dippre was the only tight end to make a noticeable impact in the passing game, gaining 36 yards on just two catches. Corey Dyches had only one reception for two yards.
Maryland’s tight ends weren’t bad against Wisconsin but weren’t particularly good either. They didn’t get a ton of opportunities to provide big blocks due to the Terps’ lack of outside running plays.
Tagovailoa usually loves to check the ball down to either Dippre or Dyches when in trouble, but that wasn’t the case Saturday.
It was a rough day for the Terps’ offensive line with starter Mason Lunsford out with a concussion. The Badgers brought multiple blitzes that went entirely unaccounted for, leading to a total of five sacks for 31 yards. Maryland also had minimal success run blocking, unable to stop Wisconsin players from breaking into the backfield.
Also due to Lunsford’s injury, freshman Coltin Deery stepped in and had trouble snapping the ball. His snaps frequently went low or high over Tagovailoa’s head, leading to a few near-turnovers that cost the Terps field position.
Penn State’s front seven will bring a lot of pressure Saturday, so the Terps will need improved play from what they hope will be a healthier group.
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz was ineffective Saturday and was sacked three times, twice by Greg China-Rose and once by Tommy Akingbesote. Maryland did an all-right job generating pressure on him, although he was inaccurate regardless.
What Maryland did not do a good job of, however, was stopping the run. The Badgers averaged six yards per carry, very rarely being stopped before getting to the second level. Wisconsin’s offensive line had no problem opening up holes for its running backs and then pushing them forward, turning short gains into bigger ones. The defensive line had few answers for the rushing attack of Wisconsin and really struggled to slow it down, especially early.
Like the defensive line, the Terps’ linebackers were unable to slow down Wisconsin running backs Braelon Allen and Isaac Guerendo, both of whom rushed for over 110 yards. When they would break through the line of scrimmage, Maryland’s linebackers were either unable to tackle them or unable to shut off the outside, leading to three rushing plays of at least 20 yards.
Gereme Spraggins contributed with a tackle for loss, but other than that the linebackers were almost nowhere to be found. Jaishawn Barham returned and had five tackles, but was also flagged for a personal foul that cost the team 15 yards.
Ruben Hyppolite also returned from injury and didn’t make much of a difference in terms of production.
Maryland’s secondary had some bright spots but also some dim ones Saturday.
Defensive backs broke up four passes; Deonte Banks had two. Beau Brade also had another good performance, leading the team with seven tackles.
Jakorian Bennett pitched in with a tackle for loss of his own but struggled with pass interference calls, getting flagged twice. Bennett also was pushed away while chasing Guerendo on his 89-yard touchdown run, failing to get past a blocker. He is elite at getting himself in position to make a play but has struggled to actually follow through this season.
Regardless of the mistakes, holding an opponent to just five completions and 77 passing yards is something to look at as a positive, no matter how much the elements may have contributed.
On a day where clean football was hard to find, the Terps’ special teams had a good game.
Colton Spangler had a big day punting, getting eight opportunities and averaging nearly 50 yards per punt. He also landed two inside the Wisconsin 20-yard line, one down to the six.
Chad Ryland only had one chance to kick a field goal and converted from 39 yards out. He did a good job getting touchbacks on kickoffs.
The return game was just okay, as the Terps averaged 14 yards on kick returns and seven yards on punt returns.
Usually these grades are reserved just for the players, but the Terps’ coaching had a big enough impact on the game that it needs to be addressed.
Mike Locksley’s game management was confusing at times, especially when he called a timeout with the first-half clock ticking down and Wisconsin facing a fourth down. The Badgers were scrambling to get their players on the field for a field goal, but Locksley chose to stop the clock and allow them to set up. Then, when Maryland got the ball back, the Terps kneeled the clock out, which begs the question: why give the opponent a chance to get its personnel in order if you’re not going to do anything with the time left?
Most eye-opening was the offensive play-calling by Maryland, though. Time after time, Maryland refused to throw the ball because of the wet conditions and ran the ball up the middle for little to no gain. There was a stark lack of creativity by offensive coordinator Dan Enos, who didn’t draw much up to get the ball in the best skill players’ hands in space on a day where downfield passing was rarely an option.
It’s fair to point to the weather as a reason why an initial gameplan may not work, but the reality is that one team was far more prepared to deal with it and make adjustments than the other. The weather was not a surprise — the forecast called for rain and wind all week — so it was disappointing for Terps fans to see the team apparently unprepared for it, especially coming off a bye week.