Maryland football’s season continued to spiral downward Saturday with a 51-15 loss to Penn State.
“They were able to have their way with us today,” Maryland head coach Mike Locksley said.
The Terps, who never led in the game, have now lost four in a row, continuing to raise questions about the state of the program — both the current and future.
Maryland football welcomed No. 9 Penn State to town, and not much seemed to go right for the Terps. They dropped their fourth game in a row, 51-15.@keara_bruno has the video recap. pic.twitter.com/KZ2iOs3cBI— Testudo Times (@testudotimes) November 5, 2023
Here are some takeaways from the game.
Tagovailoa was not to blame for the defeat
Taulia Tagovailoa completed his first 17 passes for close to 200 yards and a touchdown. The first three drives of the game, despite clean and efficient passing from Tagovailoa, were rendered moot after a Tai Felton fumble and two unsuccessful short-yardage tries.
Tagovailoa ended his evening with an interception and fumble on back-to-back drives, but the result was already secured by that point.
Throughout, Maryland couldn’t run the ball, the defense couldn’t get a stop and the offensive line was poor in protection.
“We didn’t make plays in any of the three phases that we need to make consistently,” Locksley said.
Maryland finished with -6 yards from its running backs. Credit has to be given to Penn State’s stout run defense, which ranks first in the Big Ten. It came into the game allowing under 75 yards per game. Regardless, it was an embarrassing display from the Terps.
Penn State scored on nine of its 12 drives, with three of those taking over five minutes off the clock. It was a clinical performance from quarterback Drew Allar, who finished with 240 yards and four touchdowns.
The offensive line couldn’t contain the Nittany Lions’ feared defensive front either. Tagovailoa was sacked six times.
Another loss in the turnover battle
Earlier in the week, Locksley mentioned that to snap this losing streak, Maryland needs to win the turnover battle. That message was not received by the players Saturday.
Maryland lost the turnover battle Saturday, 4-0. That doesn’t include a turnover on downs on its first drive.
Turnovers not only end possessions, but they also change momentum, which proves more important at times.
Minutes after the aforementioned turnover on downs, a pass to Corey Dyches on fourth-and-1 near midfield that fell short of the marker, Penn State scored a touchdown.
Maryland’s second drive ended deep in Penn State territory after a Tai Felton fumble. Instead of a potential 7-7 game, momentum was given back to Penn State.
“I had a turnover and it was my fault, but it is what it is,” Felton said. “We got to keep going and move on and fix up mistakes.”
To add salt to the wound, three of Maryland’s final four drives ended in turnovers.
Next week’s game is more important than it should be
This loss against Penn State was yet another low point in a calendar month that has exclusively featured low points.
What was once a 5-0 campaign with aspirations of a high-profile bowl game has dwindled down to a year in which the Terps might not even make a bowl.
“It’s always frustrating when we’re losing, but I think the only thing that we need to see now with losing is more urgency,” linebacker Donnell Brown said.
While Maryland definitely hurt itself in timely situations Saturday, it was clearly outmatched in every aspect of the game. The Terps lost by one possession in each of their prior two games, but were thoroughly outplayed by the Nittany Lions.
There is a clear gap between the Terps and the Big Ten’s best, but Locksley was hesitant to consider the 36-point differential on the scoreboard indicative of that gap. “I don’t think they’re 51-15 better than us. I don’t think we played to our potential.”
Sitting at 5-4, the Terps’ remaining games are at Nebraska, home against Michigan and back on the road against Rutgers.
Nebraska’s home environment is one of the toughest in the country. A loss there leaves a serious chance of Maryland finishing the season with seven straight losses.
Said Locksley: “I don’t see anybody in that locker room quitting. We’re obviously facing adversity as a program and the only way to get out of it is to work.”