Porous offensive execution throughout dooms Maryland football in loss at No. 12 Indiana

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Trailing 7-3 inside the five-yard line after a pivotal defense stop, sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa kept the ball on the read option play instead of opting to give the ball to freshman running back Peny Boone. The decision proved costly as Tagovailoa was tackled in the endzone by defensive end D.K Bonhomme for a safety and allowed No. 12 Indiana (5-1 B1G) to promptly regain momentum in its 27-11 victory.

“The defensive end made a nice play,” Tagovailoa said. “Those types of plays I just need to hand it off, let it eat and not do too much. That’s my fault and something I can learn from.”

That poor decision from the young signal caller, was a microcosm of Maryland’s (2-2 B1G) struggles offensively as the Terps finished with three turnovers and managed just 63 total yards of offense in the second half. Tagovailoa never seemed to get comfortable against the stout Hoosiers defense, which capitalized on Maryland’s mental errors and mistakes.

Maryland moved the ball well in the first half and the defense contained the Hoosiers. However, the offense’s inability to execute at the latter stages of drives prevented them from scoring points. It also allowed the Hoosiers to maintain a slim halftime lead, which they built on in the second half. 

“Offensively I didn’t feel like we were prepared,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “On offense when you turn it over three times and you score points for the other team with the safety and then you have eight penalties. Just bad execution all-game long, we didn’t give ourselves a chance in that phase of our team.”

After finding success on the opening drive with a good balance between running and passing ball, Tagovailoa showed an early indicator he wasn’t in rhythm. On 3rd and 9 from the 12-yard line, he uncharacteristically missed a wide-open Dontay Demus in the back of the endzone. The next play, Joseph Petrino missed a 29-yard field goal and the Terps didn’t score on their opening drive for the first time all season.

“That was just my fault, I got to stick to the basics with that and just follow my throw, not fading off and not try to aim it,” Tagovailoa said.

Despite the missed opportunity, Maryland’s defense picked them up forcing the first of four three-and-outs in the first half. The ensuing possession, Tagovailoa rushed for 16 yards on 3rd and 10, but guard Johari Branch was called for a hold– the first of eight untimely penalties for the Terps on the day. Unable to convert on 3rd and 20, the Terps punted and the Hoosiers were on offense once again.

Struggling to generate success with the passing game, the Hoosiers executed an 11-play, 74-yard, touchdown drive– seven of which were rushes. Earlier in the drive, on a free play after Maryland went offsides, quarterback Michael Penix threw up a 50-50 ball, which 6-foot-4 Miles Marshall caught for a 37-yard gain. 

That pass set Indiana up with great field position, and it finished off the drive with running back Stevie Scott’s first of three touchdowns on a direct snap. It was also the Hoosiers’ only touchdown of the first half, as they struggled to beat Maryland’s stifling defense.

With Indiana showing signs of life offensively, Maryland’s offense needed to respond. After back-to-back 20 plus yard gains from running back Isaiah Jacobs and DeJaun McDougle the Terps were on the Hoosiers 25-yard line. However, consecutive penalties pushed them back to the 29-yard line setting up a 3rd and 14 opportunity.

Looking to capitalize on a big play, Tagovailoa had another unusual miss throwing behind Demus who found an opening near the endzone. The pass deflected off of the outstretched arms of Demus and into the hands of cornerback Taiwan Mullen.

“[Taulia] uncharacteristically missed some early throws where some guys were open,” Locksley said. “Accuracy, touch and putting the ball where it needs to be caught typically isn’t something we deal with him.”

However, Maryland’s defense stepped up once again forcing the Hoosiers to go three-and-out and punt from their own end zone. Off the punt, Maryland had great field position at the Hoosiers 46-yard line. After consecutive first downs from Boone and Demus to start the drive set up Maryland just outside the redzone– another mistake proved costly. 

Tagovailoa was picked off by cornerback Jaylin Williams as he was looking to fit the ball in a tight window to Brian Cobbs. Even though Williams fumbled on the return and Maryland recovered, the Terps offense couldn’t capitalize after regaining possession.

Neither Maryland nor Indiana found success on its next two drives, and the Terps offense was still searching for their first points of the game. Starting from the Hoosier 29-yard line, Tagovailoa threw his best pass of the day to Demus on the sideline for a 35-yard gain. 

Two plays later, Boone rushed for a 15-yard gain and the Terps were once again on the fringe of the redzone. However, untimely penalties reared their ugly head once again. An illegal formation penalty negated a 10-yard rush from Boone, which would’ve set up Maryland just outside the 10-yard line. That drive, Maryland was forced to settle for a field goal with 4:06 remaining in the first half.

The final four minutes of the first half– both defenses stepped up completing a first half filled with missed opportunities for Maryland offensively. While Maryland’s offense was plagued by mistakes, the defense did a phenomenal job containing Penix and the high-octane Hoosier passing attack. At the half, Penix had a meager 37 yards on 2-15 passing.

On the opening possession of the second half, Indiana elected to run the ball more often, which brought them success on their only touchdown drive of the first half. Pounding the ball down the field, the Hoosiers were stuffed on a 4th and 2 opportunity from the five-yard line after Indiana head coach Tom Allen elected to go for it. Scott ran up the middle and was cut down by safety Jordan Mosley, but Maryland’s momentum was short-lived.

The aforementioned safety completely flipped momentum back to the Hoosiers who extended the lead 9-3. On the punt after the safety, Indiana had great field position on its 47-yard line. Capitalizing on the momentum, they executed an eight-play, 53-yard drive capped off by Scott’s second touchdown of the game. The Hoosiers also tacked on a two-point conversion when backup quarterback Jack Tuttle connected with tight end Peyton Hendershot, extending the lead to 17-3.

“Definitely was disappointing to give up points like that after our defense did a good job of anchoring down inside the red zone area,” Locksley said. “It was a tremendous buzzkill for our team to give up points there and then they go back down and score, so it was like a 12-point swing.”

From that point on, Indiana continued to dominate on the ground, wearing out the Maryland defense, which spent 36:19 on the field. After a field goal extended the lead to 20-3, Tagovailoa threw his third interception to linebacker Micah McFadden, setting up the Hoosiers with a short field. Off the turnover, Scott scored his third and final touchdown of the day giving Indiana a commanding 27-3 lead.

Late in the fourth quarter, Maryland’s offense scored its only touchdown of the game as Tagovailoa launched a 50-50 ball into the endzone, which Demus caught for a 43-yard touchdown and the Terps tacked on a two-point conversion. Demus was the lone bright spot offensively for the Terps finishing with six receptions, 114 yards and a touchdown.

Maryland will look to execute better offensively and replicate their success defensively traveling to Ann Arbor Saturday to face Michigan.