Jack Howes kicked Maryland football into bowl eligibility as time expired, but the journey to Maryland’s 13-10 victory over Nebraska was wild and ugly.
“We’re going to enjoy this one because winning on the road is tough, and it wasn’t pretty, but they found a way to get the job done,” Maryland head coach Mike Locksley said.
After turning Nebraska over for the fourth time, Maryland football found itself in the red zone. Roman Hemby then ran it inside the 5-yard line, but fumbled while trying to churn out a few extra yards. Instead of the Terps taking a potential 17-10 lead, they gave the momentum back to the Cornhuskers. To add more salt in the wound, Taulia Tagovailoa missed Kaden Prather for a wide-open touchdown the play before.
On the ensuing possession, Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule went to his third-string quarterback, Chubba Purdy. Heinrich Haarberg started the game, but after going 1-for-5 with an interception and taking a hard sack, which forced him into the injury tent, Jeff Sims took over. But Sims threw a pair of interceptions and managed zero passing yards in more than two quarters of play.
Purdy led the Huskers all the way down to Maryland’s 7-yard line before tossing a ball right into the hands of Tarheeb Still, Nebraska’s fifth turnover of the game and the game’s eighth total. Nebraska’s quarterbacks finished the game with 86 yards and four interceptions. Still and Dante Trader Jr. each collected two picks.
“I can’t give enough credit to our defense. They created a bunch of turnovers,” Locksley said.
Tagovailoa then led the Terps on a three-minute drill to end Maryland’s four-game losing streak.
“Our quarterback did a tremendous job of that last drive of putting us in position to go win it,” Locksley added.
Maryland joined the conference in 2014, but it received one of its biggest doses yet of traditional Big Ten football against Nebraska Saturday.
The Terps like to play fast and throw the ball at an absurdly high rate, but Nebraska’s stout defense — and dismal offense — rendered Saturday’s contest into an ugly one.
Seven of Maryland’s first 10 possessions ended in Nebraska territory, but they only had 10 points to show for it. Three of those drives ended in turnovers — an additional two resulting in failed fourth-down tries.
“I mean, defense played their butts off,” Tagovailoa said. “You know, they gave us a lot of opportunities to punch the ball in. Gave us a lot of opportunities to play complimentary football, and we just got to do a better job of making plays and putting points on the board.”
It also could not establish the run game in the first half, managing zero yards on seven attempts. The second half was much more efficient, though, as the Terps recorded 101 yards on the ground.
Maryland cracked the end zone first after back-to-back big plays from Tai Felton. With just over three minutes left in the half, Felton hauled in a 53-yard catch, and then caught an 16-yard touchdown a few seconds later.
The Terps had a chance to extend that lead to 10 before halftime, but Corey Dyches was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the waning seconds to pull Maryland out of field-goal range.
The Terps had many opportunities throughout, but a lack of discipline constantly kept this game up for grabs. Maryland committed 10 penalties for 92 yards, three of which came after the whistle.
“Over the course of the game, competitive penalties happen,” Locksley added. “Not happy about it.”
Both teams managed to consistently out-embarrass each other. In the first half, it was punt after punt, and specifically for Maryland, penalty after penalty, In the second half, it was turnover after turnover. Nebraska’s last three drives ended in turnovers, and four of the game’s final six drives ended in the hands of the opposition.
Bottom line, no matter how ugly, Maryland found a way back into the win column.
“We’re very much in high spirits right now,” Howes said. “You know, I mean, we’re going bowling. You can’t can’t be mad about that. The past is in the past and we got to, you know, be our best in the next few games.”
Three things to know
1. An ugly display of football. There were eight combined turnovers Saturday, three of which came inside the red zone. Nebraska used three quarterbacks, the Terps committed 10 penalties and went 0-of-2 on fourth downs.
Wins come in all different types of ways, and this one came in the ugliest of fashions.
2. Maryland’s run game improved as the game went on. The Terps’ rushing attack has been terrible of late. There has been no willingness to use it, and when they had leaned on it, the results were disappointing.
In the first half, it recorded zero yards on seven attempts. However, it finished the game with 101 ground yards on 26 attempts
3. The Terps are bowl-eligible. A four-game losing streak is over, and the Terps can finally say they are bowl eligible for the third straight season.