Maryland football bullied by Minnesota’s run game, 34-16, extending losing streak

(Photo Courtesy of Minnesota Athletics.)

It was abundantly clear that Maryland football had no real answers for Minnesota’s rushing offense. 

The Gophers used the run exclusively to jump out to a multiple possession lead, and their towering offensive line led the way. The run game lengthened drives and forced errors for Maryland, which accumulated penalties and several second chances for the Gophers. The run also opened play-action sets for Minnesota, which averaged 15.6 yards per reception, granting the Gophers numerous pass opportunities when they wanted sizable chunks of yardage.

Minnesota used its run-game to confidently scamper to an eventual, 34-16, win that marked the third straight loss for Maryland. For the second week, Maryland fell victim to another one-dimensional attack and couldn’t find an answer to a determined rushing offense. 

“​​Right about now, pride comes into play,” head coach Mike Locksley said, “when you let a team rush for 300 yards at will, the drops on the offensive side of the ball, the penalties continuing — these are all things that every week we keep talking about and either we got to get it fixed [or] we got to get those guys out of the game [and] off the field.”

Just 13 rush attempts in four possessions allowed Minnesota to eclipse 100 yards on the ground. The Gopher offensive line was impenetrable and a quartet of running backs sans Trey Potts or Mohamed Ibrahim took advantage. 

“It’s not really who’s running the ball, it’s what they have up front,” Locksley said, “they have a culture upfront that they want to run the football: veteran group of players, they’re big, they’re their experienced across the board, guys with 50 starts.” 

There were no exotic blocking concepts or anything of the like, the Gophers simply out-willed the Terps in the trenches and the tailbacks found holes aplenty. With the run, an outmatched defensive line and a regularly exhausted defense thanks to short-lived offensive drives, the Terp defense saw a tie game balloon to a, 17-3, deficit. 

“We had two weeks to prepare, and it was kind of disappointing but we knew it was coming.” linebacker Ruben Hyppolite said, “credit to Minnesota they are a great team. Tough, physical team. Give credit to them. But we got to take pride in doing our jobs and executing.”

Tagovailoa and Co, propelled by a 43-yard connection between Tagovailoa and Marcus Fleming, provided a response on the ground with a rushing score by Tayon Fleet-Davis. But Maryland didn’t score again until garbage time, when Fleming snagged a one-hander to give the Terps 16 points.  

Prior to halftime, the Terps caught a short break and managed to briefly delay their demise. The Gophers mismanaged the clock and, rather than trying for the endzone, settled for a field goal attempt that was promptly blocked by Tarheeb Still, who was partially responsible for extending the drive with a holding penalty several plays earlier. 

Penalties, whether they were exacerbated by the long Minnesota possessions or the persistent lack of discipline, extended the game and assisted the Gophers.

On their first scoring drive, a penalty forced Maryland to settle for three points after a foul pushed them out of the redzone. Before the home side went up for their first two possession lead, multiple 15-yard penalties turned a lifeless Gopher drive to a determinant first half score. The Terps totaled eight penalties for 79 yards.  

Receiving the ball at halftime, the Gophers continued the same production. Adamant with chewing away clock and trotting its way down the field, Minnesota put the game away in the third quarter. The fourth different rusher found the endzone and Maryland went scoreless for the entire period. The Gophers found the endzone twice in the third quarter and possessed the ball for 10 of the period’s 15 minutes and added three more points in the fourth. 

Minnesota ended the contest throwing just 12 times for 125 yards while running the ball on 56 plays for 326 yards. Meanwhile, Maryland ended with just 80 yards rushing and 268 total yards. 

“It starts with the accountability piece and that’s everybody,” Locksley said. “Everybody needs to really take a deep look into themselves and make sure that you’re doing everything you can in your power to prepare and give yourself a chance to win on Saturday.”