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Three takeaways from Maryland football’s 38-7 loss to No. 14 Michigan

From Lance LeGendre’s appearance to Javon Leake’s performance to Maryland’s remaining schedule, here are three takeaways from Saturday’s 38-7 loss to No. 14 Michigan.

Lance LeGendre appears to be the future at quarterback, but how soon will he start?

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It wasn’t surprising to see Maryland coach Mike Locksley throw the freshman quarterback out there against the Wolverines, given that the former four-star prospect had played in just one game and still could play in three more without losing a year of eligibility.

What was a little head-scratching was to see LeGendre running the team’s red zone offense in the first quarter after starting quarterback Josh Jackson had moved the Terps from their own 25 to the Michigan 23, largely on the legs of Javon Leake and a 22-yard pass from Jackson to tight end Chig Okonkwo.

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Locksley had apparently kept LeGendre’s name out of all pregame news conferences by saying that redshirt freshman Tyler DeSue would be the No. 3 quarterback if both Jackson and redshirt junior Tyrrell Pigrome were physically able to play, and No. 2 if Pigrome hadn’t recovered from the hypertended knee he suffered the previous week at Minnesota.

LeGendre gained 6 yards on his first snap on second-and-7 and was stopped for no gain on third down. After the Terps got the first down and pushed it to the 15, Jackson returned. Michigan’s rush picked up, forcing Jackson to throw out of bounds on second-and-7 and then hitting Jackson as he threw on third down. The ball wobbled, and was picked off by safety Josh Metellus to end the threat.

By the time LeGendre returned in the fourth quarter, the 14-0 deficit had grown to 38-7 and Michigan had its second- and third-stringers in the game. After starting out from Maryland’s 42, LeGendre helped the Terps drive deep into Wolverines territory, including reeling off three straight runs of 8, 16 and 15 yards. He even completed his first pass as a college player.

Eventually time ran out with LeGendre losing 3 yards on first-and-goal from the 4.

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So where does Maryland go from here with LeGendre?

It would be even more shocking — and probably foolish — for him to play early or even at all in next Saturday’s game at No. 3 Ohio State. Locksley should probably wait to use him, and perhaps more extensively, against Nebraska at home on Nov. 23 and in the season finale Nov. 30 at Michigan State.

As long as he comes out of the game in Columbus as healthy as he seemed Saturday, Jackson should remain the starter. Depending on his own recovery, Pigrome would be the backup if he is deemed ready to play.

The offense seemed to have more rhythm against Michigan’s No. 8 ranked defense than it had in any of Pigrome’s three starts. Against Nebraska, which ranks 76th overall on defense and gets to the quarterback only slightly more often than the Terps, Jackson should have more time to throw.

Yet based on the small sample size of what LeGendre did Saturday, he looks like a quarterback well-suited to run Locksley’s offense the way he wants, especially with the use of the run-pass options. As long as he can stay healthy — which is always a question with quarterbacks in College Park — LeGendre appears to be the future.

How soon that clock starts ticking, we’ll find out in the next month.

Javon Leake has emerged as Maryland’s most dangerous weapon.

Mostly because of his own versatility as both a running back capable of breaking off runs of 50 yards or more, and a returner who has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns to tie Torrey Smith for the school record, Leake has replaced Anthony McFarland Jr. as the team’s biggest threat.

Part of it has been that McFarland hasn’t been healthy for much of the season, and has tried to play through an ankle sprain suffered in the third game at Temple. He certainly isn’t close to being as explosive as he was as a redshirt freshman last season, when he rushed for over 200 yards at Indiana and for nearly 300 the next week against then-No. 10 Ohio State.

While both Leake and McFarland have been held in check the past two weeks — first by Minnesota and then on Saturday by Michigan — Leake is still having a breakout season.

After starting at the bottom of the depth chart as a freshman — when he had just nine rushes for 99 yards but showed flashes with a 61-yard touchdown run against Towson, a 20-yard touchdown on his only carry against the Buckeyes and an 82-yard kickoff return against Indiana — Leake started out fourth-string last season but worked his way up to be McFarland’s backup because of injuries to Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison III.

Leake is averaging fewer yards per carry than he did in his first two years, but his 7.7 yards per carry this season are even more impressive when you consider who’s been blocking for him. It’s almost as impressive as former wide receiver DJ Moore catching 80 passes two years ago after losing his top two quarterbacks, Pigrome and Kasim Hill, with season-ending knee injuries.

Things are probably not going to get any better for Maryland’s running game this week in Columbus, since Ohio State’s run defense has jumped from 58th last season (allowing 158.2 yards a game) to ninth (91.5). Unfortunately, the Buckeyes are also even better in pass coverage, ranking first (132.8). That they are averaging a Big Ten-best 4.25 sacks a game should make for a very long afternoon in “The Horseshoe” for the Terps.

The Terps are playing for the future.

Locksley states that he still goes into every game preparing his team enough so that Maryland has a chance to win, but the painful truth the past few weeks is that Terps are not talented enough, deep enough and, during a few games in a stretch of four straight losses and six defeats in seven games, tough enough to pull off an upset.

To his credit, Locksley has tried to be as transparent as possible, even letting one of the team’s beat reporters in for some meetings and the pregame walk-through before Maryland played at Minnesota. It’s clear that Locksley is trying to get several of his younger players as much experience as possible headed into 2020.

The Terps have played 17 true freshmen this season. Nick Cross started his third straight game Saturday, freshman cornerback Deonte Banks made his first start at corner and redshirt freshman Austin Fontaine, who switched from the defensive line to the offensive line, started in place of injured senior right guard Terrance Davis. Redshirt freshman left tackle Jaelyn Duncan has started most of the season.

With three games remaining, Locksley can play those who have yet to get on the field since they won’t lose a year of eligibility. Given the current recruiting class, it will also be vital for the Terps to hold onto some of their top commits for 2020, particularly four-star outside linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II, three-star safety Beau Brade (River Hill) and three-star offensive linemen Jordan White and Ja’Khi Green (St. Frances) based on their needs going forward.

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