Taulia Tagovailoa and the offense trotted out onto the field down six points with good field position and just over three minutes to play. Even after getting outplayed for much of the game, the Terps still had a chance to win it with the ball in their best player’s hands.
Tagovailoa and co. managed to bring the ball into Northwestern territory and faced a crucial third down. The redshirt senior dropped back and delivered an overthrown ball to tight end Corey Dyches, landing in the arms of Wildcats safety Coco Azema to ice the game with 1:25 to play.
The second turnover of the day for Tagovailoa capped off Maryland’s third straight defeat in a 33-27 loss to Northwestern.
“They outplayed us, they out-hustled us, they out-hit us. And when that happens, you gotta look at everything, including myself,” said head coach Mike Locksley. “The only thing we can do to get back on track is on us, it starts with me, all the way down to every player on our roster to get this back on track because this one was really disappointing.”
The loss comes just days after the arrest of co-offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin, who was charged with driving under the influence last Saturday morning in Florida, according to a Hillsborough County police report.
Sumlin is not currently with the team and will face disciplinary action, Locksley said Tuesday.
Three weeks ago Locksley had Maryland primed for a successful season and another step in the right direction after starting their campaign 5-0. With a seven-point lead midway through the third quarter against unbeaten Ohio State in Columbus, there was a belief that this was the year to make a statement. Well, that hope has been stripped and the Terps have spiraled ever since.
After another disappointing defeat to Illinois, Maryland found themselves desperate for a win when they traveled to Evanston to take on the Wildcats.
The Terps were able to get healthy over the bye week in preparation for the game, returning four starters including cornerback Tarheeb Still and safety Dante Trader Jr.
That had little effect on Northwestern quarterback Brendan Sullivan, who was stellar in just his third start of the season. The junior threw two touchdown passes, passed for 265 yards, and ran for another 56.
With starting quarterback Ben Bryant sidelined against a stingy Maryland secondary, there seemed to be an advantage in favor of the Terps, but there was no answer for Sullivan.
“We gotta get back to the drawing board,” linebacker Ruben Hyppolite said. “We had an open week, paired with getting a bunch of starters back on defense and still weren’t able to get the result.”
Despite the defensive struggles, the offense was efficient through the first half but just couldn’t seem to get over the hump by limiting turnovers and finishing drives with touchdowns.
The Terrapins were also penalized six times for 69 yards, including three after the whistle, and allowed six sacks to a Northwestern defense that came into the game ranked last in the conference with only 10 through seven games.
“I feel like we had a good week of preparation,” wide receiver Jeshaun Jones said. “We go hard Monday through Friday. We just didn’t get it done today.”
The Terps have to put this one behind them quickly and will look to defeat Penn State for just the third time since joining the conference.
With three straight losses to Big Ten opponents and top-10 ranked Penn State coming to town, is it time to be concerned?