Terps football Head Coach Mike Locksley speaks with reporters about his team's loss to Purdue Saturday.
Maryland came to Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday for the first time since joining the Big Ten in 2014, trying to win its second straight road game against an undermanned opponent and regain some momentum from early in the season..
Slightly favored and confident that redshirt junior quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome was ready to assume a starting role for injured graduate transfer Josh Jackson, the Terps stumbled badly, losing to the Boilermakers, 40-14, before an announced homecoming crowd of 52,296.
The loss was the third in four games after a 2-0 start that briefly put the Terps in the Top 25. Given how decimated the Boilermakers were by injuries — more than a dozen players, including quarterback Elijah Sindelar and All-American wide receiver/returner Rondale Moore, were out — it was huge opportunity missed in pursuit of bowl eligibility.
“Obviously road wins are tough. You’ve got to give Purdue credit; they did a better job than us today with their execution,” first-year Maryland coach Mike Locksley said. “Like I told our team, not disappointed in their effort, really disappointed in our execution and us not taking advantage of our opportunities.”
Pigrome made his share of big plays, including a career-long 61-yard touchdown run on a naked bootleg in the second quarter. But he also made a critical mistake late in the first half, when a pass on second-and-1 from his team’s 34 was intercepted and returned 37 yards for a touchdown.
The pick-six — the third of Pigrome’s career — put Maryland (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) in a 16-point hole at halftime after the Terps had twice cut their deficit to six. Purdue (2-4, 1-2) never was threatened again. The victory broke a three-game losing streak for the Boilermakers.
“To have a touchdown called back for penalties, to have a dropped touchdown, the turnovers, and then again on the defensive side of the ball, not limiting the big plays,” Locksley said. “Those are consistency issues that we’ve got to get figured out. We will. The team has no quit. We’ll continue to work to get these guys better with each week. We’ve got a lot of football left to be played.”
On Maryland’s first possession, a potential 50-yard touchdown pass from Pigrome to sophomore wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. was called back because of a holding call on junior running back Javon Leake. Purdue then scored on its first two possessions for a 13-0 lead.
On Maryland’s final drive of the first quarter, what appeared to be a 21-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-3 was dropped in the end zone by redshirt sophomore running back Anthony McFarland Jr.
“It was bad execution. It was on us to start the game [better],” Leake said. “The penalty was on me. I’ve got to do a better job just getting my technique down, so I won’t get that call. We started moving the ball a little bit, but bad penalties and the defense couldn’t get off the field. There’s a lot of things that we’ve got to get back to and just correct.”
Said Locksley: “We don’t need to help other people beat us.”
Making only his fifth career start, Pigrome’s lone win as a starter remains at then-No. 23 Texas in 2017, when he led the Terps to a big lead before tearing an ACL in the second half.
On Saturday, Pigrome finished 21-for-39 for 218 yards passing and led the Terps with a career-high 107 rushing yards on 13 carries. But he was intercepted twice. Pigrome became the first Maryland quarterback to rush for over 100 yards since Perry Hills did it against Iowa in 2015. Despite having the early touchdown called back, Demus led the Terps with a career-high 10 receptions for 105 yards.
Pigrome showed the inconsistency that has haunted him in the past, especially with his passing.
“The one thing I will say is that the kid will compete,” Locksley said about Pigrome. “It’s hard to say exactly how he played. He made some plays with his feet, which we know Piggy is capable of. He made some good throws. The touchdown pass that was called back, he put the ball up there, he put some air under the ball and made a great throw on a deep ball. But then we do have the miscues with the interceptions.”
Asked how difficult it was to play from behind the whole day, Pigrome said, “It’s very tough, especially when we keep beating ourselves. I feel like we’ve got a great team. We can put ourselves in a great opportunity. But when we shoot ourselves in the foot, and get behind in the chains, that when it forces us to punt or when we turn the ball over. That fourth down to McFarland, that’s like a turnover for us. I told him he’ll bounce back and I’ll always come back to him.”
Pigrome blamed himself for the pick-six, thinking safety Cory Trice was going to turn one way when he jumped the route to set up the first of Pigrome’s two interceptions.
“That was on me,” Pigrome said. “Trying to get some points before the half, forced the interception. It was my fault.”
Making only his second career start in place of Sindelar, who is out indefinitely with a broken clavicle, redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Plummer torched Maryland’s defense for 420 passing yards and three touchdowns, completing 33 of 41 attempts.
Senior tight end Brycen Hopkins caught 10 passes for 140 yards. Freshman wide receiver David Bell, whose role expanded with Moore’s knee injury, caught nine passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
The offensive performance by Purdue didn’t surprise Locksley.
“They’ve struggled to run the football, but the one thing you see on film is that they have the ability [to score]. The quarterback’s a good thrower,” Locksley said. “He puts the ball in good position for his receivers. If we’re going to put pressure on people, we’ve got to get there No. 1, and then No. 2, we gave up so many slant routes today. It just shouldn’t happen based on leverage and the way we want to play.”
On top of that, the defense that came into the game ranked 21st in the nation in third-down efficiency (31.2%) let Purdue convert 11 of 18 third-down opportunities. That included the first of Bell’s touchdowns on a third-and-20 from Maryland’s 23, which set the tone for the windy afternoon.
“The thing that was disappointing with the defense is that when we created some big plays on offense. I just felt we were a little lethargic [on defense],” Locksley said. “I didn’t see the same energy that our defense has played with, especially early in the game.”