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Yannick Ngakoue takes aim at Maryland sacks record vs. Indiana

Maryland defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue, left, sacks Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the first half, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, in Baltimore.
Maryland defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue, left, sacks Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the first half, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, in Baltimore. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

COLLEGE PARK — A few weeks ago, Yannick Ngakoue was unaware he was closing in on Maryland history. Now, the junior defensive end knows what he could accomplish against Indiana on Saturday, but he's still trying to make the Terps' home finale about the seniors who will play their final game at Byrd Stadium.

Ngakoue is a half-sack away from tying the Maryland single-season sacks record of 13 shared by Mark Duda (1982) and Bruce Palmer (1978) and one away from capturing it for himself. The Hoosiers, though, present a tough task. Ngakoue has at least a half-sack in each of the past nine games, but Indiana ranks second in the Big Ten Conference by allowing only 1.2 sacks per game.

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"At the end of the day, the record really don't mean nothing to me because it's our seniors' last day at Byrd Stadium," Ngakoue said Wednesday. "It just means a lot for them. We just want to get the win for them. That's the main thing that's on my mind right now, just getting a win right now for the seniors."

Ngakoue is coming off a performance last weekend against Michigan State in which he had five tackles, two tackles for loss and 1 1/2 sacks. He also had two quarterback hurries against the Spartans and was part of a pass rush that knocked around starter Connor Cook and backup Tyler O'Connor.

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Ngakoue's 12 1/2 sacks rank second both in the Big Ten and nationally behind Penn State's Carl Nassib, who has 15 1/2. His 1.25 sacks per game has fallen slightly off the pace of 1.31 he was on two weeks ago, but his coaches have seen the growth beyond rushing the passer they've wanted to see out of Ngakoue.

"I know he's always been a really good pass rusher," defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski said. "He kind of has that natural ability, but I think he's becoming that complete player that we talked about all season. When you look over the last couple of weeks, he's starting to really play all the downs the right way."

The record is within Ngakoue's reach, and he'll be facing an offense piloted by Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld that passes 34.5 times per game. He'll have to beat a solid offensive line to get there, but he'll have his chances.

But he also knows he has the chance to contribute to wins in the final games for Maryland's seniors.

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"It's something you can just share with your kids in the future," Ngakoue said. "But as of right now, man, I'm just worried about getting these seniors a win."

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