Maryland football ended its four-game losing streak Saturday with a 13-10 win over Nebraska to become bowl-eligible. Jack Howes nailed a game-winning 24-yard field goal as time expired.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Maryland won the turnover and explosive play battle
Throughout Maryland’s four-game losing streak, head coach Mike Locksley has preached the importance of winning the turnover battle and creating more explosive plays.
“We can’t lose the turnover battle, 4-0, the explosive play battle, and expect to win,” he said Tuesday, referring to Maryland’s loss against Penn State.
Locksley’s pleas were answered Saturday.
The Terps created five turnovers against Nebraska and forced head coach Matt Rhule to cycle through quarterbacks. Heinrich Haarberg, Jeff Sims and Chubba Purdy all took snaps under center for the Cornhuskers. Each threw at least one interception, the next being more crucial than the last.
Dante Trader Jr. and Tarheeb Still each tallied two interceptions, while Beau Brade forced a fumble by punching the ball out of Sims’ arms.
“We were all in the right spots at the right time,” Trader Jr. said.
While Maryland had three turnovers on the offensive end, explosive plays masked some of its miscues. Tai Felton hauled in back-to-back receptions that totaled 69 yards and Maryland’s lone touchdown of the game, and Roman Hemby ripped off a 21-yard run to help set up the game-winning field goal.
“When we were having success both on offense and as a team, it usually started with our defense and their ability early in the year when they were getting their hands on a bunch of balls,” Locksley said. “It’s complementary, and our defense really did a tremendous job today.
While the Terps were far from perfect, they picked up a much-needed win.
Another inconsistent rushing performance
For the second consecutive week, Maryland struggled to run the football for much of the game.
Against Penn State, the best rushing defense in the Big Ten, the Terps’ running backs totaled -6 rushing yards on seven attempts. Hemby received five of those carries, turning them into zero yards.
Nebraska’s rushing defense ranks second in the Big Ten, and Maryland yet again could not produce consistently on the ground. The Terps had zero rushing yards on seven carries in the first half, but ran the ball fairly well in the fourth quarter, totaling 64 rushing yards.
The most consequential display of these struggles came in the third quarter when Antwain Littleton II was stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the Cornhuskers’ 17-yard line. Hemby also fumbled the ball at the four-yard line in the fourth quarter.
The Terps inability to run the ball effectively put additional pressure on Tagovailoa, who threw the ball 40 times for 283 yards, while also scrambling for 27 yards.
On the other side, Nebraska did nearly all of its damage running the ball, picking up 183 of its 269 total yards on the ground.
Maryland is bowl-eligible
For the third consecutive year, Maryland is bowl-eligible.
After a 5-0 start, the Terps lost four straight games, and bowl eligibility went from an almost certain outcome to a mere hope. With No. 2 Michigan (10-0) and Rutgers (6-3) on deck, the Terps’ best remaining chance to secure its sixth win was Saturday, and they did just that.
“Throughout the course of the last four or five weeks, we haven’t had a lot of things go our way, and not one time have they not shown up and done the necessary work,” Locksley said. “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.”
While Maryland’s expectations were far higher than bowl eligibility a month ago, it’s still just the fifth time the Terps have reached the six-win plateau since joining the Big Ten.