Three Key Numbers from Maryland’s Loss to Northwestern

(Photo via Maryland Athletics)

Maryland football did not get anywhere near the start to the season that they wanted, losing 43-3 to the Northwestern Wildcats. Just about everything went wrong, let’s examine the numbers to see what exactly happened to Maryland on Saturday night. 

Before I start, let me explain one of the stats I’m going to use, Expected Points Added (EPA). EPA is a better way to understand what happens in a football game based on the situation. 

First, it takes out garbage time and only looks at when games are actually competitive. EPA then takes into account several components that aren’t factored into a box score. Those crucial factors are field position, down and distance. In a standard box score, a four-yard gain is just that, a four-yard gain. 

However, there’s more context that needs to be added. If you gain four yards on 3rd and 3, that’s much more impactful than gaining four yards on 3rd and 15. The same can be said for field position. Yards are harder to get near the goal line, therefore gaining yardage there is  more valuable than it would be at midfield. The same method of thinking applies in reverse. Losing yards backed up near your end zone is much more costly than yardage lost at the 25 yard line.

EPA takes this into account in its methodology. If a player’s EPA is positive, they are contributing towards their team scoring points. If their EPA is negative, they’re hurting the team on offense. CollegeFootballData is a great resource for this statistic. However, they classify the term as PPA (Predicted Points Added).

-2.3 PPA

-2.3 PPA is an atrocious figure for a quarterback. Unfortunately it’s what happens when you only complete 56% of your passes for 94 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. Maryland’s quarterback struggles are well-documented. However, Tagovailoa has the potential to break that curse and become a reliable signal-caller in Locksley’s system.

Tagovailoa’s 2.3 rating was the worst performance by any Big Ten quarterback in Week 1. In order for the Terrapins to have success that number needs to drastically improve. 

-4 turnover differential

Maryland cannot compete in the Big Ten if they lose the turnover battle by such a wide margin. A young team needs to put themselves in advantageous situations, and turning the ball over does the exact opposite. It takes away possessions and often gives the opposing team good field position. Maryland’s three interceptions and fumbled kickoff gave Northwestern great field position and momentum.

Those turnovers contributed towards the Wildcats average field position being at their own 32 yard line, compared to the 25 yard line for Maryland.  Although that seven-yard difference may not seem impactful, it gave Northwestern an average increase of .5 expected points on each drive before it began. Losing both the field position and turnover battle, those mistakes proved costly for Maryland.

1 game

A 40-point loss and a three interception outing from the quarterback is a tough way for Maryland to start the season. Despite the struggles, it’s just one game.  Maryland has plenty of talent on the team, particularly at the skill positions. Junior wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. was effective on Saturday, leading the team with a 1.9 PPA. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jeshaun Jones has displayed the ability to create explosive plays. Freshman Rakim Jarrett is a five-star recruit, another talented perimeter player for Maryland.  All of these talented skill players provide optimism that Maryland’s players and coaches can rebound from their mistakes moving forward.