Maryland football dropped its second game of the 2016 season Saturday, falling 31-10 to Minnesota in College Park.
The Terps looked discouraging in the second half last week against Penn State, and that carried over into this contest. Maryland recorded just 291 yards of total offense, but that number is misleading —191 of those came in the fourth quarter, when the game was already well out of reach.
Minnesota, on the other hand, controlled the game with its running attack. The Gophers had 229 yards on 47 carries, with sophomores Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks leading the way. Backup quarterback Conor Rhoda (7-for-15, 82 yards) wasn’t that impressive in a spot start for Mitch Leidner, but he didn’t need to be.
It was revealed just minutes before the game that Maryland would be playing with a backup, too. Perry Hills, who was expected to start all week, dressed for the game but didn’t throw any passes in warmups. True freshman Tyrrell Pigrome got the call, and he struggled in his first career start, going 18-of-37 for 161 yards with three turnovers.
Maryland didn’t lean on its rushing attack nearly as much as one would expect: The Terps ran the football less than they passed it. Pigrome had a team-high 70 rush yards; Lorenzo Harrison added 31 and Ty Johnson finished with 23. The team picked up 130 yards on 36 attempts.
On the rare occasion that the Terps busted out a big play, it was reliably called back for holding. Maryland had five holding calls in the first half alone (and six in the game). One of them canceled out a 38-yard run by Pigrome, while another negated Lorenzo Harrison’s conversion of a third-and-20. This was Maryland’s most exciting play of the half, and it ended up not mattering at all.
The first half was ugly. The Terps sandwiched five punts around two turnovers deep in their own territory. Pigrome’s first-quarter interception set the Gophers up at Maryland’s 36-yard line, but Minnesota came up empty on a field goal attempt, keeping the game scoreless. Maryland wasn’t so lucky after Will Likely’s muffed punt, though. Three plays after the senior dropped a fair catch, Smith opened the scoring with an 8-yard touchdown run. Minnesota added another touchdown with 14 seconds left in the half, as Brooks took a short pass from Rhoda into the end zone to make it 14-0 at the break.
Minnesota opened the second half with a 12-play, seven-minute drive; Emmit Carpenter’s field goal extended the Gophers’ lead to 17-0. The score held through the third quarter, but a 32-yard kick from Adam Greene put Maryland on the board with 11:15 remaining. On the next Minnesota drive, however, Smith broke free for a 70-yard rushing touchdown, eviscerating all doubts regarding the game’s outcome.
Pigrome led the Terps on a 10-play, 87-yard drive that culminated in an 11-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Moore, but Maryland was still down two scores. The offense was driving again late, but a pick-six by Antoine Winfield sealed the deal with just over a minute left.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s offense was too lackluster for too long. The Terps had 100 yards of offense and 75 yards of penalties through three quarters. With Pigrome at the helm, Maryland could never get much going against a Minnesota defense that came in ranked 18th by S&P+. The ground game is Maryland’s bread-and-butter, but its running backs couldn’t get going Saturday.
2. Minnesota’s running backs were more than good enough. The Gophers had 47 rush attempts compared to just 15 passes, and while Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks weren’t remarkable, they were consistently solid. The sophomores tallied 144 and 86 yards on the ground, respectively.
3. There are plenty of injury questions in the secondary. JC Jackson was off the field more often than he was on it, and Likely never returned to the game after limping off on a second-quarter kick return. This led to freshmen Tino Ellis and Elisha Daniels playing side-by-side at times, and although they did a pretty admirable job, it certainly wasn’t the ideal situation.