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After Minnesota loss, Maryland football has to clean up its passing game

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A lot went wrong, but there’s hope!

Scenes From Maryland's 31-10 Loss to Minnesota Sammi Silber / Testudo Times

Maryland football had 100 total yards going into the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss to Minnesota. The Terps limited the Gophers’ offense better than the 31-10 final score might suggest, but they just couldn’t move the ball themselves. This, more than anything else, caused Saturday’s loss.

True freshman quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome got his first career start with Perry Hills out, and Maryland’s offense looked similar to what we saw against Penn State, except worse. Minnesota’s stout run defense bottled up Maryland’s shifty backs, putting even more of the onus on Pigrome to get things done.

Here’s what the passing game looked like through three quarters:

Left Middle Right All
20+ yards 0/1 0/1 0/1, 1 INT 0/3, 1 INT
15-19 yards 0/0 0/0 0/0 0/0
10-14 yards 0/0 0/0 0/1 0/1
5-9 yards 0/0 1/1, 6 yards 2/3, 15 yards, 1 drop 3/4, 21 yards 1 drop
0-4 yards 3/4, 13 yards 0/0 0/0 3/4, 13 yards
Less than 0 yards 0/1 0/0 2/2, 13 yards 2/3, 13 yards
All 3/6, 13 yards 2/2, 6 yards 4/7, 28 yards, 1 INT, 1 drop 8/15, 47 yards, 1 INT, 1 drop

This is more of what we’ve seen all season. The inability to throw deep is fairly expected, as Pigrome has the arm strength to sling it, but probably not the necessary experience. He had some open receivers downfield, but consistently overthrew them. Pigrome had one throwaway, which isn’t included here.

But guys, FORTY-SEVEN PASSING YARDS.

This represents a failure in explosiveness and efficiency.

Maryland’s execution on screens and short passes wasn’t what the team needs it to be. For Walt Bell’s offense to work, the team needs wideouts to catch the ball close to the line of scrimmage and get yards after the catch. Maryland couldn’t get the ball to its wideouts in space, and the offense stayed stagnant.

As with any freshman quarterback, he’s going to make some mistakes. Pigrome’s early interception put Maryland in a poor spot defensively, although the Terps avoided allowing any points there.

This looked to simply be a case of him locking down on one receiver, as he missed an open target over the middle here (maybe tight end Derrick Hayward, but I’m not positive). Pigrome threw it in the direction of Levern Jacobs, who had three defenders in his vicinity, instead of Hayward, who only had one defender trailing him.

Via ESPN

Luckily, the defense made this turnover inconsequential, forcing a field goal that Minnesota missed.

Still, Maryland’s offense was nearly unwatchable until the fourth quarter.

Maryland’s run-pass balance was tricky

Pigrome’s more of a threat with his legs than he is with his arm. So why, then, did Maryland throw as many times as it ran?

The final count was 37 passes to 36 runs, but that ratio doesn’t illustrate the full picture. Of Pigrome’s 20 carries, 14 came on scrambles, and 11 of those scrambles came in the fourth quarter (unofficially). So Maryland’s play calling was more like 51 passes to 22 runs. Even though that’s skewed by Maryland’s fourth-quarter comeback attempt, it’s questionable.

Through the first three quarters, Maryland tallied 100 TOTAL yards. Minnesota’s defense might’ve matched up well to neutralize Maryland’s rushing game, but yikes.

Maryland had exactly one good drive before the fourth quarter, and that drive still ended in a punt.

Via Maryland Athletics

Not great.

The fourth quarter showed some hope

The Terps finally got on a roll through the air when they were attempting a comeback down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. That comeback came up plenty short, but the team was able to almost triple its yardage, an encouraging fact that’s also sad. More important than the yardage tripling is the increase in passing yards per attempt from 3.1 to 5.7. Maryland can win games operating at 5.7 yards per attempt. Unless the Terps are running for 400 yards, 3.1 isn’t going to get it done.

Maryland’s offense can clearly operate better than it did throughout most of this game, but it can’t just wait to the fourth quarter to wake up.

Left Middle Right All
20+ yards 0/1 0/1 0/1 0/3
15-19 yards 0/0 0/0 0/0 0/0
10-14 yards 0/0 2/3, 42 yards 1/1, 11 yards 3/4, 53 yards
5-9 yards 0/0 0/1 2/4, 13 yards 2/5, 13 yards
0-4 yards 2/3, 12 yards 1/1, 11 yards 2/5, 25 yards, 1 INT 4/8, 39 yards, 1 INT
Less than 0 yards 0/0 0/0 0/0 0/0
All 2/4, 12 yards 3/5, 53 yards 5/11, 49 yards 10/20, 114 yards, 1 INT

Penalties kept the Terps backtracking for most of the day, but they didn’t commit any offensive penalties in the fourth quarter. A more successful offense in the last 15 minutes probably isn’t a coincidence.

The most encouraging sign from the quarter might be the slight uptick in medium-range completions. Pigrome’s accuracy wasn’t great, but for a true freshman navigating this offense while trying to orchestrate a comeback, it really wasn’t terrible.

He was finally able to march Maryland’s offense down the field, and the Terps scored on consecutive drives. An Adam Greene field goal got them on the board, and Pigrome followed that up with this nice touchdown to D.J. Moore with a few minutes left in the game. Anthony Becht gave this a nice breakdown on ESPNU, so I’ll let him take it away here:

This fourth quarter should give fans hope for the future, and not just the distant one. Regardless of whether it’s Pigrome or Hills under center, if Maryland can operate like this, it’ll have a shot against Michigan State and Indiana.

Other notes

  • Wide receiver Levern Jacobs, who was nonexistent in the first few games, exploded onto the scene with 10 catches for 82 yards. He was a go-to target in the fourth quarter, and figures to continue contributing going forward after his slow start.
  • Tino Ellis, who started at cornerback in place of JC Jackson, got his hands on several balls and came close to a pick-six.
  • Maryland opted to play more of its base defense instead of its usual nickel, with linebacker Jalen Brooks getting on the field a lot more. This could have also had something to do with Will Likely’s absence. He’s the team’s usual nickel corner, and he went out with an injury early in the second quarter.