As Nebraska’s defensive line closed in around him, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa saw Tai Felton nearing the 30-yard line and bombed a 53-yard pass in his direction. Felton dove out to make the catch, and on the next snap he would secure the first touchdown of the game after 27 minutes of play.
The 5-4 Maryland Terrapins traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, on Saturday to face the 5-4 Nebraska Cornhuskers for their third-to-last game of the regular season. Maryland beat Nebraska, 13-10, becoming eligible for a bowl game in December.
Maryland entered the matchup coming off of a four-game losing streak, most recently beaten by Penn State the week prior, 51-15. Nebraska also entered the game with a recent loss after falling short to Michigan State, 20-17.
“It’s a blessing to come out victorious against Nebraska, playing at Nebraska,” Tagovailoa said. “You know, just celebrating with the team knowing the things we’ve been through, it’s a big confidence booster going into next week against Michigan.”
Following a successful fake punt that secured a first down on their initial possession, Nebraska quarterback Heinrich Haarberg threw an interception to defensive back Dante Trader Jr., further widening the Cornhuskers’ lead for the highest number of turnovers in the nation to 23.
On its second possession, Maryland was quickly forced into a third and long situation at midfield, but Tagovailoa aired out a 17-yard pass to wide receiver Kaden Prather just outside the red zone. Nebraska’s sturdy run defense forced Maryland to lose yards on back-to-back plays, forcing a punt from Brenden Segovia to keep the first quarter tied at 0-0.
The bulk of the second quarter remained scoreless as both teams put on defensive clinics. Maryland’s 66 passing yards drastically outweighed Nebraska’s five, but the Cornhuskers managed 83 rushing yards while holding Maryland to zero with five minutes remaining in the half, despite a six-carry effort from the Terps.
With three minutes left, Tagovailoa reignited Maryland’s offense with a 53-yard pass to WR Tai Felton who was streaking down the sideline. Felton caught a 16-yard touchdown pass on the next play that put Maryland up by seven and marked the first score of the game.
Nebraska tried to manage a touchdown with under a minute to play, but QB Jeff Sims (who subbed in for an injured Haarberg) threw an interception to DB Tarheeb Still in the endzone that resulted in a touchback.
Maryland received the ball with 25 seconds left. Tagovailoa threw another deep ball, this time a 43-yarder to Jeshaun Jones to land the ball in Nebraska territory. An unnecessary roughness call on tight end Corey Dyches would bring the Terps out of field goal range a few snaps later, keeping the score at 7-0 at halftime.
“Competitive penalties happen. Am I happy about it? No— but I’m going to focus on the fact that we got six wins regardless of the circumstances or penalties,” head coach Mike Locksley said post-game. “We’ll deal with that as we watch the tape.”
Maryland started the last half with the ball, but Tai Felton fumbled Tagovailoa’s first completion which gave Nebraska possession at Maryland’s own 27-yard line.
While defending in goal line territory, Maryland lost key defensive lineman Tommy Akingbesote for the remainder of the game due to injury, and Nebraska ended the drive with a short rushing touchdown from TE Janiran Bonner to make it 7-7.
Tagovailoa threw an interception to linebacker Javin Wright on Maryland’s next possession, signaling two turnovers in a row for the Terps to start the half. Nebraska only managed a field goal to take the lead— a 38-yard attempt from kicker Tristan Alvano.
The Terps managed to reach Nebraska’s 18-yard line on the next drive (only after taking eight minutes off the clock) but found themselves with a decision to make at fourth and two. The call was to go for a first down, but running back Antwain Littleton II was tackled for a loss of yards.
To start the fourth quarter, DB Beau Brade forced a fumble on Sims who scrambled, and the ball was recovered by LB Kellan Wyatt at Nebraska’s 21-yard line. A big sack on Tagovailoa killed Maryland’s momentum off the turnover, and the game was tied at 10-10 after a successful field goal attempt from K Jack Howes with thirteen minutes left in the game.
Sims threw his third interception on the next play, a second ball picked off by Dante Trader Jr. at midfield.
“Today, to go out there and do what we did, it just goes back to our standard and what we did in practice,” Trader Jr. said in his presser afterwards.
Tagovailoa immediately took advantage of regaining the ball, rushing 22 yards to Nebraska’s 14-yard line. RB Roman Hemby then rushed towards the end zone but fumbled the ball away, marking the fifth turnover of the second half.
Nebraska subbed in QB Chubba Purdy (younger brother of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy), for the last ten minutes. Purdy started things off with a 24-yard completion to WR Billy Kemp, then handed the ball off to RB Emmett Johnson who advanced another 29.
But when Purdy attempted his first touchdown pass of the game, Tarheeb Still prevented yet another Nebraska touchdown with an interception, his second of the game to tie with Trader Jr.
Maryland managed to reach first and goal territory with 30 seconds left on the clock. Unable to reach the end zone, the Terps settled with a field goal from Jack Howes to win 13-10.
“I trust the operation,” Howes said post-game. “With Ethan [Gough] the snapper, Colton [Spangler] the holder, the guys up front blocking every single time— I can’t thank them enough.”
The win marked Maryland’s first in 43 days.