COLLEGE PARK — First-year Maryland coach Mike Locksley has often told his team this season not to play to the scoreboard, meaning lately not to get too down or distracted when the Terps fall behind quickly, as happened the past three weeks when their opponent has gone up two scores after touching the ball just twice.
Two weeks after nearly overcoming an early 14-0 deficit as well as a 10-point second-half deficit at home to Indiana before a couple of late turnovers cost Maryland a chance at a win, and one week after getting blown out at Minnesota, the Terps got another opportunity to listen to their coach Saturday on homecoming.
Faced with their third straight early two-touchdown deficit to No. 14 Michigan — the first score coming on a 97-yard return by freshman Giles Jackson on the game’s opening kickoff — Maryland saw two scoring chances of its own blown in the first half and never recovered, losing to the Wolverines, 38-7.
“We’re not going to take moral victories, that’s not what this program is about,” said graduate transfer quarterback Josh Jackson, who made his first start since suffering a sprained ankle Oct. 5 at Rutgers, Maryland’s last win. “You can see progress. You can see us drive the field on a great defense, a very-well coached defense. Just little things we have to finish. We’ll continue to get better. A young team, we’ve just got to continue to keep working.”
Asked how he reacted to his team getting down early again, Locksley said, “I try to practice what I preach. I didn’t look at the scoreboard. Obviously I’m disappointed when the ball goes running down the field on the first kickoff return. It’s ‘so-what, now-what’. We can’t fold the tent and the game is over.
“You just keep playing the game. As I told the guys, you don’t want to look up and worry about the score. Or worry about the culmination of it until zeroes [are] on the clock. I think that’s where I saw us make strides as a team today and that’s the standard [to] which we’re going to play around here.”
It was the fourth straight loss and sixth in seven games for Maryland (3-6, 1-5), which now must play at No. 3 Ohio State next Saturday. The only touchdown for the Terps came on their own 97-yard kickoff return by junior running back Javon Leake in the fourth quarter. Michigan (7-2, 4-2) won for the fifth time in six games.
“Disappointed obviously with the score, the outcome of the game, but not with the effort, which for me was something I need to see from our team, and something I didn’t see last week," Locksley said, referring to a 52-10 loss to the then-No. 17 Golden Gophers.
“As I told our team I thought we took a step forward in terms of the type of effort we need to play with for 60 minutes. And playing with heart and playing with pride, and I saw that all the way to the end. ... Fighting a little bit more and I think we can build with that type of fight.”
The Terps were seemingly in the game until the Wolverines, facing a fourth-and-1 from the Maryland 27, ran a fake punt and gained 14 yards on a direct snap run to linebacker sophomore Michael Barrett.
A 51-yard pass from fifth-year senior quarterback Shea Patterson to junior wide receiver Nico Collins set up the second of two touchdowns for freshman running back Zach Charbonnet, whose 11 touchdowns is a school record for a freshman.
“I wouldn’t say it was a turning point, but it did allow them to steal some points at the end of the first half, which we were trying to guard against,” Locksley said of the fake punt.
In opening the season with one-sided victories over Howard and then No. 21 Syracuse, Maryland’s offense missed only one of 14 opportunities to score touchdowns in the red zone. Since then, the Terps are 8 of 18, including 0 for 3 against the Wolverines.
The first two trips came with Maryland already down 14-0., the third when the game was long over.
On the first, Jackson was hit as he threw on third-and-7 from the Michigan 12, the wobbly pass being intercepted by Michigan senior safety Josh Metellus. On the second, Jackson was sacked on third-and-10 from the 11, and sophomore kicker Joseph Petrino missed a 37-yard field goal.
“The red zone, a couple of plays, you don’t execute, you don’t get any points,” said Jackson. “That’s our job, we can’t leave it on the kicker. On the pick, I guess I got to get the ball out a little faster. It’s just us, we’ve got to execute better. We’ve got to see it and get the ball in the end zone.”
After getting in for just one series last week, Jackson played nearly the entire game. He finished 9 of 20 for 97 yards, getting sacked four times. His return came against a team he grew up rooting for and where his father, Fred, was an assistant coach for 23 years.
Asked if there was anything special playing against the Wolverines, Jackson said, “Yeah, I really wanted this one. I grew up in Schembechler Hall, which is very important to me. ... I definitely wore that uniform as a kid. Dad coached there my whole life. It was cool, but it obviously means nothing that we lost.”
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the game for the Terps was the appearance of freshman quarterback Lance LeGendre, a former four-star prospect who signed with Maryland on the second signing day in February after it was rumored that he was headed to Florida State.
LeGendre came in early in the game and ran a couple of plays in the red zone and then finished the game for Jackson. He wound up rushing seven times for 45 yards, and had the Terps on the verge of scoring a late touchdown when time ran out.
“That’s a special guy right there,” Leake said. “I can’t wait for him to get going. He’s a young guy, but he’s definitely going to be a great player for Maryland one day.”
LeGendre, who last played in Maryland’s season opener, can now be used in two of his team’s final three games without losing a year of eligibility. After playing the Buckeyes next Saturday, Maryland has a bye week before hosting Nebraska Nov. 23 and finishing the season Nov. 30 at Michigan State.
“He can run, and I think he’ll continue to develop, continue to get better,” Jackson said. “He’s a great player and he really tries to absorb everything that you give to him. I think he did a great job. He ran the ball well. He’s maturing and starting to pick things up.”
For the second time this season and third time in his career, Leake had a kickoff return for a touchdown. Leake, who had a 100-yard return against Rutgers this season and another 97-yard return against Illinois last season, tied Torrey Smith for first place among Maryland kick returners in a career.
“It’s always fun, knowing you’re going to go out with your brothers and they’re going to block for you,” said Leake, who had just 38 yards rushing on seven carries. “You just try to make a play. It’s always fun to do that, just take it to the house.”
When told that he tied Smith, Leake smiled.
“That’s crazy,” he said. “I used to watch all the GOATs, kick returners that were here — Will Likely, Ty Johnson, Torrey Smith. I just looked up to them guys and picture myself doing it before I got here and it’s actually turned out well.”
It came two weeks after Leake rushed for a career-high 158 yards and two touchdowns against Indiana, only to fumble late in the game and see the Terps lose, 34-28.
Asked how to balance his personal accomplishments amid losses, Leake said, “You just got to keep fighting to the end. No matter what the score is, I’m going to play as hard as I can, give it 100% all four quarters.”
Leake’s day got off to an unusual start. Normally low-key and seemingly relaxed, Leake was visibly upset and left the field during pre-game warmups. Running backs coach Elijah Brooks followed him into the lockerroom and also seemed upset. Leake had another short outburst shortly after he returned to the field.
“My emotions were just a little high,” Leake said. “That’s all it was. Emotions high. Big game. I got back all right before the game started.”
MARYLAND@NO. 3 OHIO STATE
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