One dreadful minute led to Maryland football’s shellacking at the hands of No. 5 Iowa

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

It took a minute for the entire nature of the game to flip upside-down.

Just one minute of game time was needed for Iowa to score two touchdowns, force a Maryland turnover, and wring the life out of the Maryland student section with a gruesome injury to Dontay Demus Jr. 

With that minute of game time, the first minute of the second quarter, Iowa decisively supplanted itself as the superior, No. 5 side. The eventual victors of a highly anticipated, primetime Friday night contest ran away with a, 51-14, win using a dominant, 31-0 scoring run in the second quarter.

“This team is better than what we showed tonight and it’s my job as a coach to get us to play that way, each and every week, and I’m sure they will respond the right way,” head coach Mike Locksley said.

But before things truly went south, Maryland football looked equipped to withstand the brightness of the Friday night lights and keep up with its Big Ten rival. Taulia Tagovailoa and the Maryland offense did only manage to mark up a little over 30 yards and an interception in their first two possessions, but after Iowa could only muster a field goal following Tagovailoa’s first turnover, the Terps and their quarterback marched down to respond. 

In what turned out to be its only scoring drive of the half, Maryland barely flinched against the nation’s most opportunistic defense. Tagovailoa and Demus connected twice on deep crossing routes and the Terps paced down the field with their pass play to take the lead. The eight play drive ended with a nine yard play-action touchdown pass to tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo. 

The packed, all-black student section exploded in cheers and the Maryland sideline followed suit. The Terps scored on and were leading, 3-7, against the No. 5 ranked Hawkeyes.

Iowa scored its first touchdown in response, with Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras breaking the plane with his first of two rushing touchdowns. 

And Maryland was then immediately presented with a chance to prove its first touchdown was far from a fluke. 

After Iowa scored with the first three seconds of the second frame, Maryland’s dreadful minute of football began. When Demus received the ensuing kickoff, fumbled the ball and folded awkwardly at the knee on his way down to the turf, just ten seconds of game time had passed. 

Demus had to be carted off after minutes of silence, followed by “F–k you Iowa” chants that rang throughout the stadium. The Hawkeyes regained possession and used 43 seconds and just two plays to add another touchdown, leaving Maryland little time to process any of the events of the first 56 seconds of the quarter. 

Demus had just made his way up the program’s all-time receiving yards list, sitting at eighth with four catches and 61 yards at the time of his injury. His numbers were game-highs for Maryland.

“He’s the best player on our team,” Okonkwo said, “[when you lose him to injury] that’s bound to affect the team.”

In just a minute, Maryland went from being up four points to down 10. But the hemorrhaging did not stop there. 

On the first play of the following possession and with the last few seconds of that opening minute, Tagovailoa sent a strike over the middle that was batted up and into the hands of a Hawkeye defender. The defensive back fumbled on the return, but Maryland failed to recover. Iowa had the ball once again, this time with just 26 yards from the endzone. The visitors scored a touchdown again with ease. 

Tagovailoa threw his third interception of the half in just the second play of the following possession, sending Terps fans home and Maryland’s chances of winning down the drain. He ended the game with five interceptions when the dust settled and was benched with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter. 

Iowa’s final touchdown drive of the half was the most alarming — and likely frustrating — of the contest for athletes and fans alike. 

It was a six play possession laden with the blunders Maryland had been privy to in games all season. Back-to-back pass interference calls, one roughing the passer call and enough total missteps to put the Hawkeyes up 24 and send several dozen fans home before halftime. 

“It’s simple. We gotta clean up the little stuff, we gotta stop the penalties, we gotta stop beating ourselves to give ourselves the chance to win,” cornerback Tarheeb Still said, “that’s the biggest part.” 

The first turnover-less possession of the quarter for the Terps amounted to negative two yards, but they allowed just a field goal for the Iowa offense to end the half on a 34-7 scoreline. 

With the support of the Maryland faithful nearly gone and a significantly lower morale, the Terps saw the Hawkeyes take their foot off the gas and cruise to victory as the final half began. The visitors scored just 10 and seven in the third and fourth quarter, respectively as Maryland scored seven points of its own in the final half. 

In just one minute and ultimately one quarter, the Terps went from eye-brow raising to underwhelming. Tagovailoa looked like a world beater and quickly wilted, threw for just six yards in a quarter, multiple interceptions and looked nothing like the confident, accurate field general who played in the Terps first four contests. The student section started with hundreds of fans painting the stands in black, and ended with just a handful of dedicated onlookers.

Maryland went from a team with undeniable promise, to a clearly fledgling group with glaring flaws exposed by a team hopeful for a national championship bid. 

“I also think it’s important we realize this is just one game and it’s important for us as a team to understand that one game shouldn’t and can’t define us,” Locksley said. “We can’t let one game playing poorly lead to the second one ​​so we need to get back in as a team and as coaches and obviously get this film graded, corrected, make the necessary adjustments that we need to make and get our team ready to bounce back.”