Football’s Offensive Stalls Late, Fall to No. 2 Michigan, 31-24

Photo by Maryland Athletics

With the game-clock ticking and the scoreboard showing a five-point deficit, Taulia Tagovailoa retreated into the end zone. His attempt to connect with Tai Felton along the sideline resulted in a second interception by Mike Sainristil, sealing Maryland’s fate in a close upset attempt.

The 6-4 Maryland Terrapins hosted the 10-0 Michigan Wolverines (ranked No. 2 in the country) in College Park on Saturday for their last home game of the season.

Maryland entered the matchup having recently broken a four-game losing streak, beating Nebraska 13-10 in Lincoln last Saturday to become eligible for a bowl game. Undefeated Michigan too entered with momentum after a competitive 24-15 win over Penn State.

Michigan kept its win streak alive, beating Maryland 31-24. 

“This team showed up today and fought the champion to the fourth quarter and fell up short,” head coach Mike Locksley said during his post-game presser. “We’ll be able to build off of this as a program, and I know we will.”

Michigan started with the ball on the 17-yard line thanks to a deep kick from kicker Jack Howes, and the Wolverines went three and out on their first drive. Running back Roman Hemby led the offensive effort on Maryland’s first drive to enter Michigan territory but the possession ended with a field goal from Howes to give the Terps a 3-0 lead. 

RB Blake Corum upped Michigan’s play on the second drive with back-to-back rushes to fall just short of Maryland’s 15-yard line. With two minutes left in the first quarter, Corum ran two yards to give Michigan the lead with its first touchdown. It marked his 19th of the season. 

Before the quarter expired, Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was sacked by linebacker Michael Barrett at his four-yard line. Defensive lineman, Derrick Moore, scooped the ball and ran into the endzone to make it a two-score game. 

Receiving the ball again, Tagovailoa was immediately sacked again at Maryland’s 18-yard line and the Terps were forced to punt out of the endzone shortly after. Colton Spangler’s punt was blocked, and Spangler kicked the ball off the field before it could be jumped on for a third touchdown. The result was a safety, scoring 16-3 at the end of the first. 

Michigan started the second quarter by marching right into Maryland’s red zone but found itself on fourth down with eight yards to go at the 26-yard line. Choosing to go for the first down, QB J.J. McCarthy sent a pass to tight end AJ Barner, but a questionable holding call on defensive back Tarheeb Still gave the Wolverines a first down. The drive ended with another touchdown from RB Blake Corum to put the Terps down by three possessions.

With five minutes left in the half, Tagovailoa connected a 14-yard pass with RB Roman Hemby who once again landed Maryland just outside the red zone. A pass to TE Corey Dyches moved the chains to the 1-yard line, which primed backup QB Billy Edwards Jr. for a touchdown push.

A fourth down conversion from Michigan put the Wolverines on Maryland’s 19-yard line with just over a minute left to play, but an interception from LB Jaishawn Barham prevented another score. Despite Tagovailoa completing 76% of his pass attempts, the Terps entered halftime trailing 23-10.

Wide receiver Kaden Prather kicked things off for Maryland to start the second half with a 34-yard reception to enter Michigan territory. A rush from Tagovailoa landed the ball on the 1-yard line a few snaps later, sending Edwards Jr. back in the game for his second touchdown. With ten minutes left in the third quarter, Maryland made it a one-score game. 

“Billy’s a force,” Tagovailoa said post-game. “He’s 225 [lbs], he’s got a good base. [..] It was so good to see, it was like watching the Eagles.”

The 17 points allowed by the Wolverines marked the most they’ve let up in a single game all season.

Tagovailoa’s first interception of the game resulted in Michigan’s first score of the final half. DB Mike Sainristil landed with the ball at half field, and an eventual fourth down conversion set Michigan up comfortably with a first down at the 13-yard line. Freshman WR Semaj Morgan rushed 13 yards to the end zone but the two-point conversion attempt that followed was unsuccessful, making the score 29-17 Michigan.

Maryland responded before the third quarter ended. Tagovailoa aired out a 24-yard completion to WR Jeshaun Jones, followed by a 34-yard completion to WR Kaden Prather at the 1-yard line. This sent Edwards Jr. on for his third rushing touchdown of the day to bring Maryland within five points of the lead.  

Both offenses struggled to find more points in the final quarter. Maryland found itself backed up in its own territory on three straight drives which resulted in a punt, an interception and a safety. Michigan, on the other hand, punted on three straight drives.

“We kind of beat ourselves today,” senior defensive back Beau Brade said. “We gave them a lot of points. We had three turnovers and we only got one takeaway, so I mean, we kind of beat ourselves.”

Brade led the defense with 11 tackles, 10 of which were solo.

Aside from the safety, the score didn’t change, bringing Maryland’s record to 6-5 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten Conference.

Maryland enters its final game of the regular season against Rutgers next Saturday in Piscataway, New Jersey.