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Four takeaways from Maryland’s overtime thriller against Minnesota

The Terps shined on offense in what was a shootout Friday night in College Park.

Minnesota v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

Maryland football won an instant classic Friday night, defeating the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 45-44, in College Park.

The Terps’ stunning offensive play earned them their first victory since Oct. 5, 2019 after getting blown out at Northwestern to open the abbreviated season.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the win.

Jake Funk had a career day in the backfield

After missing most of the last two seasons with consecutive ACL tears, it was unclear how running back Jake Funk would perform as the team’s starter this year. He quickly silenced any doubt on Friday night.

The Maryland redshirt senior tallied 221 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries on the ground, along with three receptions for 22 yards and a score.

With an average of 10.5 yards-per-carry — the 11th-most all-time for a single game performance — Funk had some key plays for the Terps, including a game-tying run into the end zone to bring the team all the way back from 17 down late in the fourth.

Funk’s stellar performance on Friday was the senior’s first opportunity to show up for Maryland after a small sample size of just six rushes against Northwestern.

“When he’s healthy, his leadership, he brings it every day in practice and and it’s great to have that ability to have a guy like him here with a young team,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “He’s one of the few older guys that we have in our program. And from his job and leadership it was great to see the type of contribution he made today in the running game.”

Funk’s 221 yards were a career-high, his previous being 94 yards on five carries against Syracuse in 2019. He also reached new career-highs in carries, reception yards, total touchdowns, longest run (51 yards) and longest reception (10 yards) Friday night.

Looking at Maryland’s record books, the 221 yards were also good for 11th-most in a single game in school history, as well as the most since Anthony McFarland Jr. rushed for 298 yards in 2018.

Sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, who struggled in his debut against Northwestern with three interceptions, benefited from Funk’s strong performance and even connected with the senior for his first-ever Maryland touchdown.

“Jake is an amazing running back, he’s a veteran leader,” Tagovailoa said. “And he helps me a lot because it’s good to have someone like him in a backfield.”

Maryland’s offense fed off big plays all night

When the Terps needed a spark on the offensive side of the ball, they seemed to get it every time.

Maryland totaled 10 plays of 20-plus yards in the game, six of which involved Tagovailoa either in the air or on the ground.

“Our receiver corps, they work really hard,” Tagovailoa said. “We’re a close, tight bunch and they did their thing. Like Coach Locks said, we have all the tools. For me, I just got to give them the ball and they’ll do the rest.”

The quarterback’s highlight-reel of a night took shape in the first quarter, when he showed his dual-threat abilities on back-to-back drives. His 39-yard score was quickly followed by a 76-yarder to the house on a pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jeshaun Jones.

“We saw it and were like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing, he just did that,’” junior defensive lineman Lawtez Rogers said. “In the first quarter you saw glimpses of the great things that he’s able to do, especially at a young age.”

The wide receiver position fed off of Tagovailoa’s big night, with six players bringing in at least three receptions. Junior Dontay Demus Jr. led the team with seven catches for 101 yards and a touchdown, including a big 25-yarder in the second quarter.

For a team that reached the end zone 21 times in 2019 on plays over 20 yards, big plays have proven to be a staple in Maryland’s offense and are the key to its success.

Maryland’s run defense continued to struggle

After surrendering 325 rushing yards to Northwestern, the Terps gave up 262 more on Friday night against the Golden Gophers. Maryland has also allowed nine rushing touchdowns through its first two games.

Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim proved to be a big problem, carrying the ball 41 times, surpassing 200 yards on the ground, 130 of which came in the first half.

The Gophers threw the ball just 15 times throughout the four quarters and overtime, with Ibrahim beating down the Terp defensive line for five yards per carry.

Maryland’s biggest problem against the run came at the goal line, where the defensive line surrendered four touchdowns to Ibrahim within two yards of the end zone in the first half alone.

Maryland’s defense showed some signs of life in the second half as it held Ibrahim to just 77 yards in the last three quarters (including overtime).

The improvement against the run slowed Minnesota’s scoring, allowing Tagovailoa to carry out the late comeback as the defense forced three straight punts to end the fourth quarter.

“They were they were giving our defense a good run for their money,” Funk said. “But then ultimately at the end of the game, when we needed it most, our defense stepped up and our offense made plays.”

Penalties proved to be costly in key drives for Maryland

A 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Terps defense on third and long for the Gophers led to not only a new set of downs, but a touchdown two plays later that pushed Maryland’s deficit to 14 in the third quarter.

The Terps finished with 10 penalties on the night, which resulted in 97 free yards for Minnesota.

“I don’t have much problem with penalties that you’re making in the course of a play, but the bonehead unsportsmanlike ones talking to the other team and late hits, those type of things won’t be tolerated and we got to get it cleaned up,” Locksley said. “And it starts with me making sure we’re enforcing that we play with smart playing football.”

Maryland committed two of its three defensive penalties within the end zone as pass interference calls. Both of the penalties resulted in a Minnesota touchdown, one of which came in overtime and would have tied the game if the Gophers had hit their extra point attempt.

With Minnesota’s three penalties, Maryland has now led in each of its first two games in being penalized after committing six fouls to Nortwestern’s five in Evanston, Illinois.

The Terps have an extended week ahead before traveling to Nittany Lion country to take on Penn State on Saturday, giving them more than usual time to learn from their mistakes in what was a memorable Friday night.