Maryland football never trailed Saturday at Rutgers, getting out to a 28-3 lead early in the second quarter en route to a 42-24 victory.
Here are some takeaways from the win, which clinched a third straight winning season for the Terps.
It was Taulia Tagovailoa’s time to shine
The greatest statistical quarterback in Maryland history not only became the Big Ten’s all-time passing leader, he also cemented his Maryland legacy with an encapsulating performance.
Tagovailoa was unstoppable in the first 20 minutes. In that time, he completed nine of 10 passes for 196 yards and had four total touchdowns.
But what made Saturday’s performance one of Tagovailoa’s best of the season was his response after an interception. Instead of seeing the game spiral, he buckled in and led the Terps 66 yards down the field to begin the second half, putting the Scarlet Knights on the ropes.
The redshirt senior finished the evening with a passer rating of 200.6, completing 24 of his 31 attempts for 361 yards.
Tagovailoa comfortably eclipsed the 268-yard mark, what he needed to break the record, before the end of the first half.
“He put his name down in history,” backup quarterback Billy Edwards Jr. said.
From 2015-2020, the Terps failed to garner a winning record. That script was flipped in 2021, Tagovailoa’s first year as a starter in a full season.
“I’m really proud of him and what he’s done to help us elevate this program,” head coach Mike Locksley said.
The offense took charge in the first half, and the defense did so in the second
Tagovailoa and the offense got everything started with four early touchdowns, but when Rutgers began to inch itself back into the game, Maryland’s defense came up big.
No team in the Big Ten relies more heavily on its run game than Rutgers, and the Terps were able to shut that down early in the second half. The Scarlet Knights’ first three drives gained a total of just 22 yards.
“It’s just like honing in in the second half and controlling the momentum back to our side,” safety Dante Trader Jr. said.
Rutgers leading rusher Kyle Monanagai garnered more than half of his 118 yards on the Scarlet Knights’ lone scoring drive of the half, which came in garbage time. That forced quarterback Gavin Wimsatt to throw the ball, and he went 5-of-17 with 52 yards and an interception in the second half.
“We were able to kind of contain the running game and force Rutgers to play kind of out of their element,” Locksley said.
A much-needed victory in a season of twists
It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Maryland football. From starting 5-0, to then losing the next four games — two by one score — the Terps’ resiliency was put to the test with frequency.
“Quitting wasn’t an option for us,” Locksley said.
There was legitimate discourse about the Terps ending the season on a seven-game losing streak after the losses began to pile up.
Instead, they won two of their last three games — in completely different ways. Against Nebraska, they rode five forced turnovers by the defense, and in the regular-season finale, the offense ran all over Rutgers. The Terps will play in a bowl game for the third consecutive year.
“To win seven, which was the best we could finish when we put ourselves in this position to finish strong,” Locksley added. “We finished the month of November better than we have maybe the last few years. Give credit to the senior leadership.”
This team missed plenty of opportunities, especially in a tumultuous October. But Maryland ended the season on a winning note, with a chance to play one more.