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Tagovailoa makes history as Maryland football downs Rutgers, 42-24

The Terps won on the road to clinch their third consecutive winning season.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Saturday was all Maryland from the jump. Despite some shaky play late in the second quarter, the Terps held on for a 42-24 win over Rutgers in their regular-season finale, with some history sprinkled in.

Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, who posted 361 yards and four total touchdowns, became the Big Ten’s all-time passing yards leader during the game.

[Taulia Tagovailoa becomes all-time Big Ten passing yards leader]

After getting showered postgame, Tagovailoa, who said he plans to play in Maryland’s bowl game, became emotional when shown a video of his family congratulating him on the accomplishment, and gave them credit for his success.

“You know, they’re always there every step of the way. Football, especially being quarterback, you’re gonna have tough days and stuff like that,” he said. “They’re always the people who keep it real, have a shoulder to lean on. So my parents and my family, really are the reason why I’m the person who I am.”

Tagovailoa set the tone almost immediately, finding Tai Felton for a 34-yard touchdown on the opening drive. He followed that up on the second drive with a 49-yard pass to Jeshaun Jones before scampering for 6-yard touchdown.

“Everyone was doing their job. Started the game off fast and continue to keep the lead,” Tagovailoa said.

With just over two minutes gone in the second quarter, the redshirt senior was 9-of-10 passing with 196 yards and four total touchdowns.

“[Taulia] came here under the shadow of a huge last name and made his own mark here at Maryland, but also in the Big Ten,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “I think that speaks volumes of the type of character that this kid has and I’m really proud of what he’s done in helping us elevate this program.”

But nothing is ever guaranteed in football. Holding a substantial 18-point lead with 3:56 to go in the first half, Maryland found itself inside the red zone. Tagovailoa, in the midst of one of the best games of his career, was just four yards away from eclipsing the elusive record.

He quickly dumped the ball of to Colby McDonald, who took a few steps before fumbling the ball away. After Rutgers had to punt it away, Tagovailoa threw an interception, and the Scarlet Knights then drove into the end zone to cut the lead to 11.

It was a 14-point swing, and with Rutgers set to receive the second-half kickoff, Maryland once again hurt itself with all the momentum on its side.

There’s no question the Terps were the better team in the first half, out-yarding the Scarlet Knights, 338-213. But Maryland’s consecutive turnovers turned what was an incredible half to one which epitomized the highs and lows of its season.

With that all said, the Terps could’ve faltered but did the exact opposite. After stopping the Scarlet Knights on the opening drive of the second half, momentum was back on the Terps’ side. A nine play, 66-yard drive ended in a Billy Edwards Jr. rushing touchdown. Edwards added a second touchdown — his fifth in the past two games — with 1:24 left in the game.

When asked what it’s been like to be the go-to guy in goal line situations, Edwards said, “Well now, especially in the past two weeks, I’m like, ‘let’s go!’.”

Tagovailoa added, “I love [the play], it’s fun to watch and I’m happy we get it every time.”

From then on, Maryland gave Rutgers almost nothing, with just seven points allowed in the second half.

Once you control the momentum, they can’t do anything,” Dante Trader Jr. said.”

The Scarlet Knights had a chance to make it a two-score game early in the fourth quarter, but Gavin Wimsatt threw an interception right into the hands of Glendon Miller.

Rutgers relied on its running attack throughout, managing 190 yards on the ground — led by Kyle Monangai’s 118. But outside of a 44-yard pass to set up a touchdown late in the second half, Wimsatt was unable to generate much of anything in the passing game, as he finished with just 164 passing yards on 34 attempts.

In a battle of 6-5 teams, the road team played at a much higher level Saturday. It is only fitting that the Terps’ performance was defined by their offensive prowess, powered by what many consider the greatest quarterback in program history.

“We finished the month of November better than we have maybe the last few years,” Locksley said. “Again, give credit to the senior leadership in the locker room. I give credit to the staff which did a tremendous job of continuing to coach our guys through that tough stretch we had there in October.”

Three things to know

1. Tagovailoa made history. The program’s leader in nearly every statistical passing category made his definitive mark on the Big Ten. In the second quarter, Maryland’s four-year starter became the Big Ten all-time passing leader, passing Curtis Painter’s record of 11,136 yards.

2. A payday for Locksley. With Maryland’s seventh win, Locksley earned a one-year, $7 million extension, extending his contract through the 2028 season.

3. Another winning season. Maryland finished with a losing record in every season from 2015-2020. Saturday’s win clinched Maryland’s third straight winning season, which will end with a third straight trip to a bowl game.