Maryland football suffers ugly defeat to No. 8 Michigan as execution issues still linger

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Maryland football, in another contest with a top-ten opponent, found a way to be its worst enemy. 

It was more of the same self-punishment in game 11 for the Terps. The penalties were mounting early and drops were still an issue. This game, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa also looked particularly inaccurate.   

The mishaps that have afflicted Maryland all season, continued to plague the Terps on senior day. They eventually lost all hope of an upset or a competitive contest because of their shortcomings and fell to an explosive Michigan offense, 59-18. 

“It all starts again, as I always say, with me,” head coach Michael Locksley said. “Disappointed for our 25 seniors that we honored today — that we weren’t able to play better for those guys. But as I told our team, we can’t hang our heads … because we still have a lot to play for next week.”

Down 14-0, Maryland began losing the little control it had left. The Terps needed a touchdown but they had to settle for a field goal — and it was the non-competitive penalties that were to blame. 

This potential momentum-swaying drive turned into a microcosm of Maryland’s shortcomings this season. After marching down into the redzone and earning a perfect opportunity to deal a considerable blow to one of the Big Ten’s best, the Terps edged in and out of reasonable distance from the endzone thanks to multiple penalties within the 10 yard line — all of the preventable variety. 

“It starts with coaching. It starts with players doing their job,” Locksley said, “It’s our job to get our players to play their best and execute. We’ll continue to coach them up.”

An Illegal shift, a false start and a chop block were enough to turn a promising responding drive into an underwhelming whimper in Michigan territory. To make matters worse, Tagovailoa used the remaining downs of the drive to miss a wide open Corey Dyches in the endzone on two different occasions. 

Tagovailoa’s sub-60% completion rate took the Terps to a new level of suffering in a contest where execution was vital. In one of his worst outings of the season, Tagovailoa finished with a season low 58% completion and 178 passing yards.

The redshirt sophomore missed another crucial pass after the Wolverines failed to add more points following the Terps first points of the game. In a manageable 3rd-and-5, Tagovailoa scrambled, drew in a defender and spotted a wide open Brian Cobbs, who was unable to reel in the soaring pass that would’ve moved the chains. 

“It’s not a lack of discipline or lack of ability,” linebacker Ruben Hyppolite said. “In critical times it’s a lack of focus that we need to execute.”

By the end of the half, the Wolverines added points on two of the next three drives and entered the break with a 24-3 lead. Maryland went scoreless for the second quarter, after hitting the field goal at the 9:37 mark. The Terps also lost 42 yards as a result of five penalties. 

There was a modicum of hope that Maryland would go out fighting when Tagovailoa and the Terps offense mounted several promising drives in the third frame. 

The first was a seven-yard touchdown reception to senior receiver Carlos Carriere — the Terps first six points of the game. And the second was a 10-play drive that ended with two Tagovailoa rushes that put eight points on the board, with one touchdown run and two point conversion. The progress was immediately quelled by the explosiveness Michigan displayed in its subsequent drives. 

A kickoff return and a 77-yard touchdown reception occurred in between each of Maryland’s  first touchdown series. And the 42-yard pick six that Tagovailoa threw immediately after Michigan’s second touchdown was enough to essentially seal the deal and give Michigan a resounding 52 points. 

Maryland’s third quarter effort was too little, too late and the Terps fell below .500.

“My takeaway would be just continue to work on what we can work on and control what we can control,” Carriere said.