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Terps

Maryland football hangs tough but can’t contain RB Blake Corum in 34-27 loss to No. 4 Michigan

In a 34-27 loss to No. 4 Michigan on Saturday, Maryland football put together a valiant effort that demanded respect.

At the start, however, the Big Ten Conference opener felt all too familiar for Terps fans. During the opening kickoff, sophomore receiver Tai Felton watched the ball bounce off his face mask before a Michigan defender recovered the ball at the Terps’ 10. Seconds later, Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy threw a touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Luke Schoonmaker to give Michigan a 7-0 advantage.

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But the Terps proved that this wasn’t the same team that lost by 41 to Michigan at home last year, scoring on its first three drives to take a 13-10 lead.

Even after the Wolverines went ahead 24-13 early in the fourth quarter, Maryland kept fighting. Redshirt junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, who briefly exited the game in the second half with what coach Mike Locksley said was rib and knee injuries, led the Terps down the field before tossing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Felton, which cut the deficit to 24-19 with nine minutes left.

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Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa reacts after losing his helmet on a scramble for a first down in the first half Saturday against Michigan.

The Terps traveled to Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor looking to close the gap between the top teams in the Big Ten and nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in program history. Although Locksley doesn’t believe in moral victories, Maryland (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten), which lost its 29th straight game against a ranked conference opponent dating to 2014, showed it can compete against one of the nation’s best.

“Close is not good enough, but I’m proud of the way our team fought,” Locksley said. “Definitely a step in the right direction for our program.”

For most of the game, Maryland put together a disciplined performance that showed it belonged. The Terps didn’t commit a penalty until late in the fourth quarter, and they kept Michigan’s defense out of sorts with their run game and a modest outing from Tagovailoa.

Trailing 7-3 in the first quarter, Maryland put together an impressive 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive that had the reigning Big Ten champions on their heels.

With Maryland facing a second-and-6 at Michigan’s 26, offensive coordinator Dan Enos went into his bag of tricks, faking the jet motion before Tagovailoa tossed the ball to sophomore tight end Corey Dyches for a 12-yard gain. Shortly after the completion, Tagovailoa scrambled left for 9 yards and a first down, letting out a roar in front of the Michigan crowd after losing his helmet. Two plays later, redshirt freshman running back Antwain Littleton II (eight carries for 39 yards) powered into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown to tie the game at 10 with 2:22 remaining in the first half.

Michigan running back Blake Corum eludes the Maryland defense during Saturday's game. Corum, a former St. Frances Academy star, rushed for 243 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.

The Terps closed out the first quarter with senior linebacker VanDarius Cowan forcing a fumble that was recovered by redshirt senior Ahmad McCullough at the Terps’ 25. Tagovailoa opened the second with a 26-yard pass to receiver Jacob Copeland, but a 3-yard loss by redshirt freshman Roman Hemby (16 carries for 58 yards) on third-and-5 from Michigan’s 31 forced a field-goal attempt. Transfer kicker Chad Ryland, who nailed a 53-yard field goal in the first quarter, connected from 52 yards for his 23rd straight field goal to give Maryland a 13-10 lead with 13:15 left in the half.

Michigan’s defense, however, stepped up, pressuring Tagovailoa in the pocket and holding the Terps’ top receivers in check. Junior Rakim Jarrett had four catches for 12 yards before exiting in the fourth quarter with an apparent head injury, while senior Dontay Demus Jr. had two catches for 12 yards and Florida transfer Jacob Copeland had four catches for 52 yards.

But Locksley thought the outcome of the game was decided by costly turnovers and mishaps on defense. After Maryland got a stop on third-and-4 at its 36 with 35 seconds left in the first half, Locksley said the Terps “weren’t lined up correctly” for the ensuing snap, but he didn’t call a timeout. Michigan running back Blake Corum took the handoff on fourth-and-1 and burst through a hole on the left side for a 33-yard touchdown run that gave the Wolverines a 17-13 lead at halftime.

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“We gave them a cheap one,” Locksley said.

While McCarthy impressed by passing for 220 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Corum, a former St. Frances Academy standout, carried the Wolverines’ offense, rushing for 243 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.

Tagovailoa, who completed 20 of 30 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown, threw a pair of interceptions, as he once again tried to force plays that were not there. Earlier in the second quarter, he threw a pass over the middle that was intercepted by cornerback DJ Turner, although the ball appeared to hit the ground as Turner dove to secure the catch. Locksley said “up top [in the coaching box], our guys thought it was an interception,” but the play was not reviewed. It didn’t lead to points, however, as Michigan’s Jake Moody missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt.

Maryland wide receiver Tai Felton (10) celebrates his 4-yard touchdown reception with Dontay Demus Jr. (7) in the second half Saturday.

Facing perhaps his biggest drive in a Terps uniform trailing 27-19 in the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa picked an inopportune time to throw his second interception of the afternoon. On second-and-4 at Maryland’s 31, Tagovailoa’s deep pass down the right sideline was tipped and caught by defensive back R.J. Moten for an interception, giving Michigan the ball back at its own 35. Five plays later, Corum bounced outside and ran down the left sideline for a 47-yard touchdown that gave Michigan a 34-19 lead.

“The second [interception] was egregious,” Locksley said. “[Tagovailoa] threw into double coverage and didn’t confirm the coverage, something that has happened here before. I thought he continued to fight and give us a chance, but like I said, we’ve got to play at our best when we face teams like Michigan.”

Tagovailoa — who has passed for 1,412 yards with nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions in six games against ranked opponents — was replaced on the ensuing drive by redshirt freshman Billy Edwards Jr. The Wake Forest transfer led a 14-play, 75-yard scoring drive — including a 17-yard completion on fourth-and-13 and a 23-yard scramble on third-and-21 — that ended with an 18-yard touchdown pass over the middle to sophomore tight end CJ Dippre. Edwards connected with senior Jeshaun Jones for the 2-point conversion to make it 34-27, but Michigan recovered the Terps’ onside kick and ran out the clock.

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“We all had the belief that we were going into [Michigan] to cause a big upset,” redshirt senior offensive lineman Spencer Anderson said. “Obviously, it didn’t turn out how we wanted it to be, but I feel like the confidence is there.”

MICHIGAN STATE@MARYLAND

Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports 1

Radio: 105.7 FM


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