Freshman quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome bolted down the field in the second quarter of Maryland’s loss to Minnesota, striding past defenders on the way to what would have been his team’s longest gain of the day.
But as he turned around, he saw a yellow flag on the field. This run was coming back, a common theme during the Terps’ 31-10 loss to the Gophers.
Whenever the team made a big play, a flag seemed to follow. Maryland finished with nine penalties for 75 yards on the day.
The Terps were clearly limited in the passing game with Pigrome making his first career start in place of the injured Perry Hills, and Minnesota shut down the Terps’ vaunted rushing attack. But Maryland’s consistent penalties kept the team from getting back into the game until it was too late.
“Obviously, a very sloppy performance. We killed ourselves with penalties and turnovers especially early in the game,” Maryland head coach DJ Durkin said after the game. “We played from behind, and that’s a tough thing to do with a freshman quarterback.”
Maryland had a couple drives that were wiped out by penalties. After Pigrome’s 38-yarder was called back, a false start on the very next play left the Terps in 2nd-and-20. That drive was essentially over.
“We’re a tempo offense. When you get a first down on a tempo team, you can kind of get rolling,” Durkin said. “But we go get a long run, but there’s a holding penalty. So there’s no tempo. Now everyone walks back and it’s 2nd and 20. We could really just never get on track. We were just kind of out of sync.”
Later in the second quarter, Lorenzo Harrison dazzled fans with some jukes as he converted a 3rd-and-20. But holding brought that one back too.
It was the second holding call on that series, and it hamstrung the Terps. That drive went: incompletion, Harrison run called back due to penalty, incompletion, Harrrison run called back due to penalty, short completion, punt.
“Penalties hurt. A lot,” wide receiver Teldrick Morgan said. “But we just need to come together as a team and just execute more.”
Minnesota got into the action too, committing seven penalties for 50 yards. But the Terps drew flags at more inopportune times, and it cost them.
For Maryland, part of this can be attributed to youth and inexperience. At times, the Terps were playing Qwuantrezz Knight, Elisha Daniels and Tino Ellis, three freshmen, all in the secondary at the same time. Ellis, playing his first big-time minutes at cornerback, was called offsides on a fourth down play that kept a Minnesota drive alive. Daniels got to his man just a fraction of a second too early on a third-down pass, drawing a pass interference flag that led to a Minnesota field goal.
It’s hard to blame the freshmen for committing one penalty each in their first important college minutes, and these plays came on defense, where Maryland largely played well. Teams can overcome players committing a couple of penalties, but when things snowball like they did on Saturday, that’s tough to shake.
Previously, flags hadn’t been too much of an issue for Maryland this season. The team committed a combined 19 penalties for 177 yards in blowout wins over Purdue and Florida International, but many of those flags came when the Terps were emptying their bench.
The flags stopped in the fourth quarter, and that’s when the Terps made some semblance of a comeback. Their offense only accumulated 100 yards in three quarters before tacking on 200 in the final frame. Once the team stopped committing penalties, Maryland’s offense started moving.
Now, penalties weren’t all of what Maryland did poorly against Minnesota. DJ Durkin knows that his players and coaches have a lot of things to fix before Michigan State comes to town a week from now.
“I know the story will be ‘Freshman quarterback, Piggy and all that,’ but the guys around him need to play better too,” Durkin said. “We didn’t help him out. There’s plenty of blame to go around, including coaching. We didn’t get it done.”