By Jack Rothenberg –
There was a time when BIG Ten football happening looked bleak. But after 329 days, Maryland football is BACK. Maryland and Northwestern, two 3-9 teams from a year ago, faced off for the first time ever in Evanston. Between COVID-19, the 57 new players in the program, and an unknown starting quarterback for basically the entire week leading up to the game, there couldn’t be any real expectations, just hope.
Hours before kickoff head coach Mike Locksley announced that Taulia Tagovailoa would be making his first career start, and on the first drive the move seemed to have paid off. He led the Terps down the field on the opening possession going 6/7 through the air, and they jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. Following an optimistic start, the game quickly went downhill. Reminiscent of last year’s team, all three phases were out of sorts. Tagovailoa threw two first half interceptions on back-to-back drives and the Terps were forced to punt on the ensuing three.
In addition, special teams proved costly as freshman running back Isiah Jacobs muffed a kickoff return setting up Northwestern inside Maryland territory. Finally, on defense the Terps couldn’t stop anything. The defensive line couldn’t contain quarterback Peyton Ramsey, stop the run, or get any pass rush developed. At the end of the disastrous first half, the Wildcats held a 30-3 lead.
On long developing plays, Tagovailoa looked very jittery in the pocket; on plays where Taulia rolled out, he had a hard time setting his feet which led to inaccurate throws. As the game went on, he became more comfortable with three-step drops and shorter routes. However, in the second half he continued to force throws and added a third interception on the night. In the end, Maryland was defeated by Northwestern 43-3.
On a brighter note, it was great to see redshirt sophomore Jeshaun Jones back out on the field, who hauled in five catches for 37 yards. Jones missed the entirety of last season with a torn ACL. Moving forward, It will be interesting to see how long Maryland continues with Tagovailoa at quarterback. Sophomore Lance LeGandre entered the game for the final drive, but the expectation is that Tagovailoa will start next week as well. Nonetheless, if last year showed us anything with Josh Jackson, Tagovailoa will have a much shorter leash in future games.
While the game was ugly and there is a whole lot to clean up for the future, all Terps fans should be content that there is football to watch at all.
Next week – Friday at 7:30 hosting Minnesota
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