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Three takeaways from Maryland football’s 54-7 loss to Nebraska

Maryland quarterback Lance LeGendre (4) walks off the field after an apparent injury during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Nebraska, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Will Newton)
Maryland quarterback Lance LeGendre (4) walks off the field after an apparent injury during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Nebraska, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Will Newton)(Will Newton/AP)

From Lance LeGendre’s injury to Tayon Fleet-Davis’ arrest, here are three takeaways from the Maryland football team’s 54-7 loss Saturday to Nebraska.

Lance LeGendre showed he can run, but until he shows he can pass, Maryland’s quarterback problems will continue.

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The insertion of true freshman quarterback Lance LeGendre into the lineup during the second quarter of what had quickly become another dismal and disheartening performance by the Terps gave those fans who still remained at Maryland Stadium on a cold and wet afternoon a momentary boost.

It proved fleeting when, after LeGendre followed a 26-yard run with a 17-yard run, he was brought to the ground with a hard tackle that caused him to fumble. His left shoulder took the brunt of the fall and was dislocated. In obvious pain, LeGendre marched to the locker room with his season over.

If there was any good news to come out of yet another injury to another Maryland quarterback, it was that it wasn’t a knee injury and that LeGendre is right-handed.

Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson (17) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Nebraska, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Will Newton)
Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson (17) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Nebraska, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Will Newton)(Will Newton / AP)

Fifth-year offensive lineman and resident sage Ellis McKennie said that LeGendre was going to have to learn how to slide, something that former Terps quarterback Kasim Hill should have done when he suffered the first of his two ACL tears that have compromised what was once considered a bright college — and possibly pro — career.

LeGendre is also going to have to prove when he returns next summer that he can pass to give Mike Locksley and the Terps a better option at quarterback than both Josh Jackson and Tyrrell Pigrome have been this season.

Short of Maryland pulling off another signing day surprise, as Locksley did in getting LeGendre in February, or bringing in a graduate transfer more equipped to play behind a below-average offensive line (and that might be generous) than Jackson, the former four-star prospect should be the starter in 2020.

But unless he can show he can throw the ball, or at least have time to throw the ball, LeGendre is going to be just another one-dimensional Maryland quarterback who can make plays against bad teams and look totally ineffective against mediocre to great ones.

Short fields were not the only reason the Terps struggled on defense.

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On Maryland’s first defensive snap, senior linebacker Keandre Jones sniffed out a bubble screen to Nebraska wide receiver JD Spielman and tackled him for a 4-yard loss. Along with an interception by freshman safety Nick Cross in the second quarter with the Terps down 24-0, they were about the only highlights for Jon Hoke’s defense.

It’s true that the Terps were hurt on the defensive side by running back Javon Leake’s two early fumbles, as well as the “leaping” penalty by freshman Isaiah Hazel, who tried to block a punt but instead kept the Nebraska offense on the field after the Maryland defense forced a rare three-and-out.

Nebraska safety Marquel Dismuke (19) celebrates with teammates after recovering a fumble from Maryland running back Javon Leake (20) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Maryland , Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Will Newton)
Nebraska safety Marquel Dismuke (19) celebrates with teammates after recovering a fumble from Maryland running back Javon Leake (20) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Maryland , Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Will Newton)(Will Newton/AP)

But as happened in the five straight losses that preceded this one, Maryland was burned by its inability to get to quarterbacks Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey, missed tackles and made poor reads at each level of the defense and was outcoached.

As easy as it is to blame Maryland’s problems on its inexperience and lack of depth, there are other FBS teams playing with young cornerbacks, and, especially at this part of the season, are thin. The effort seemed to be better than it was in some of the previous losses, especially in the first half, but the same glaring problems that have affected the Terps since losing at Temple in Week 3 are still there.

McKennie said after the game that the blame should be placed on the players for another poor performance, which you’d expect to hear from the most loyal and mature member of Maryland’s team. But the coaches should be taking a large part of the criticism, starting with Locksley and his staff, especially Hoke and offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery, for making it look as if the Terps are so ill-prepared.

Allowing players with DUIs to continue practicing and going to meetings, especially those with serious charges pending, is not a good look for Locksley.

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When DJ Turner was charged with DWI earlier this season, it seemed as if his Maryland career might be over. This was, after all, the second time the senior wide receiver had run afoul of the law, having been charged with several misdemeanors — which were eventually dropped — as a freshman when he and Lorenzo Harrison III were involved in shooting an Airsoft rifle on campus.

But just as former coach DJ Durkin did — when he successfully negotiated that the two freshmen go to counseling and do community service and reinstated them shortly after the 2016 season ended — Locksley found a way to give Turner another chance by suspending him for season while allowing him to remain a part of the team.

Then it was announced after Saturday’s game that Fleet-Davis, a junior running back who was arrested early Friday morning (3:51 a.m.) on seven driving-related charges, including driving under the influence of a controlled substance, would not play in the regular-season finale at Michigan State but would remain a part of the team.

It’s not known whether Fleet-Davis will miss more games next season, but that’s not the point.

Football coaches have long had different rules for their players than deans had for regular students, from Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden on down. But in building a culture at Maryland that Locksley hopes will be there long after he retires, continuing to give second and third chances to players is not going to get the Terps where Locksley hopes to take them.

Locksley talked when he took over nearly a year ago about teaching the kind of discipline he saw in his three years at Alabama, and he has continued to preach that message throughout the season. Based on what we’ve seen on the field in terms of sloppy penalties, it hasn’t been heeded as much as Locksley hoped.

And based on Locksley’s decision to quickly announce that Fleet-Davis was still with the team rather than suspending him, pending the outcome of the police investigation, the court proceedings and a decision by the school’s Office of Student Conduct, he missed an opportunity to crack down on this kind of behavior.

Maryland@Michigan State

Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

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TV: Fox Sports 1

Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

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