Terps football Head Coach Mike Locksley speaks with reporters about his team's loss to Purdue Saturday.
WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. — From Maryland’s “big-little” offense to a lackluster defense to a midseason assessment, here are three takeaways from Saturday’s 40-14 loss at Purdue.
The Terps are making a lot of big plays on offense, but the lack of consistency has become a big problem.
First-year coach Mike Locksley has said all season that he doesn’t want an offense that scores an 80-yard touchdown run on one series and then is bogged down by three-and-outs.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the Terps have become in what Locksley likes to call a “big-little” offense. For most of the past month, Maryland has spent more time mired in little than lifted with big.
Tyrrell Pigrome’s 61-yard touchdown run on a naked bootleg in the second quarter was a terrific call and a great play by the redshirt junior quarterback, but Maryland had just two 10-play drives.
A year after taking over as the featured back when he rushed for 210 yards against Indiana and 298 against Ohio State, McFarland has struggled recently.
McFarland’s 4 rushing yards Saturday were his fewest since he was held to two carries for 3 yards in the 2018 season opener against Texas.
Excluding his 80-yard touchdown run against Rutgers, McFarland has gained just 35 yards on 19 carries since a season-high 132 yards on 26 carries against Temple.
Locksley said before the Rutgers game that McFarland has played with a sprained ankle, but after the long touchdown in the 48-7 rout of the Scarlet Knights, Locksley said that “his ankle looked good to me.”
Some of McFarland’s struggles have to do with the absence of senior guard Terrance Davis, considered his team’s best run blocker. But the zone-blocking scheme that the Terps went to after struggling early against Rutgers rarely worked against Purdue.
Maryland’s defense might be a bigger mess than its offense.
When the Terps lost to Temple, 20-17, at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field last month, their defense gave the offense more than a few opportunities to scrape out what would have been an ugly road win.
When Maryland was blown out 59-0 by then-No. 12 Penn State two weeks later, Locksley pointed to early interceptions thrown by quarterback Josh Jackson and 17 missed tackles by the defense.
Pigrome’s pick-six late in the first half Saturday certainly put the Terps in a tough spot, trailing by 16 and Purdue set to receive the second-half kickoff. But Maryland’s fate was seemingly sealed long before that when the Boilermakers scored on their first two possessions.
Maryland’s problem at Ross-Ade Stadium wasn’t missed tackles as much as missed assignments, with redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Plummer picking the Terps apart and looking like the second-coming of former Purdue star Drew Brees.
Plummer’s final numbers were ridiculous: 33 of 41 for 420 yards and three touchdowns. The Terps went into the game without senior cornerback Marcus Lewis and then lost its other senior cornerback, Tino Ellis, with an injury in the second quarter.
But why couldn’t Maryland pressure Plummer after Purdue allowed 10 sacks the previous week against Penn State? Except for an early sack by senior linebacker Keandre Jones, Plummer was barely touched. It was reminiscent of what Penn State’s Sean Clifford did to the Terps, when he completed 26 of 31 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns.
Halfway through the season, a bowl bid appears to be fading if not completely dead, given the schedule.
Though the Terps are not mathematically eliminated from reaching six wins with six games remaining, this defeat was devastating. After being favored in five of its first six games, Maryland will likely go into the remaining games as the underdog.
Perhaps the best chance for a win could come Saturday at home against Indiana, but if the Terps don’t win this one, they could be looking at a repeat of Randy Edsall’s first season, when Maryland lost its last eight games to finish 2-10.
The loss to the Boilermakers — perhaps the worst defeat for Locksley at Maryland, as either the interim of full-time coach — continued a disturbing trend of costly penalties, at least one critical turnover and some questionable play-calling.
Aside from the fact Maryland lost to a team on a three-game losing streak that was without more than a dozen players because of injuries — including starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar and star receiver/returner Rondale Moore — the Terps continue to beat themselves.
For the second straight week, one play toward the end of the first half came under scrutiny.
A week ago, many questioned the decision to have Jackson pass twice from his team’s 38-yard line with 22 seconds left in the opening half, with the Terps up by 20 points and getting the ball back to start the second half.
The first throw resulted in a 3-yard gain, and the second led to Jackson’s right leg being sandwiched by two Rutgers defenders. He was carted off the field with a badly sprained ankle.
Locksley defended offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery’s play-calling by saying that he thought the Terps could “steal” at least a field goal.
(It should be noted that Maryland remains the only FBS team in the country without a single field goal. Against Purdue, sophomore Joseph Petrino’s miss from 49 yards didn’t count because the Terps were called for a delay of game and were forced to punt.)
On Saturday, on second-and-1 from his team’s 34 with around 20 seconds left, Pigrome made a poor throw, and admittedly misread the defense, on the pick-six by Purdue safety Cory Trice, who would add another interception in the second half.
If you’re trying to be aggressive and get some points to close the half, the Terps would have been better off letting Pigrome, who has always been better throwing deep than short, unleashing his strong right arm. Early in the game, Pigrome hit sophomore wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. for a 50-yard touchdown that was negated by a holding call.
At worst, it would have been an incompletion or an interception deep in Purdue territory, and the Boilermakers, knowing they had the ball to start the second half, would have gone into their locker room leading by nine rather than 16. The risk far outweighed the reward on the pass that led to the game’s most critical play.