Taulia Tagovailoa throws 50th career touchdown pass as Maryland football steamrolls Rutgers, 37-0, for 7th win

COLLEGE PARK — In that moment, as the camera found Taulia Tagovailoa and Jeshaun Jones sitting next to each other on the bench, the tight-knit quarterback-receiver relationship took center stage.

There was Jones trying to pull Tagovailoa to his feet. There was Tagovailoa trying to raise Jones’ arm. They pointed to each other, because the record Tagovailoa had just accomplished — throwing his 50th career touchdown pass in Maryland football’s 37-0 win against Rutgers — wouldn’t have been possible without the other.


“I was just trying to recognize him,” Tagovailoa said, “and make him feel special.”

“Getting to be a part of that record for him, it means a lot to me,” Jones said. “I know how hard he works and how much he deserves things like that, so it was just a great moment for the both of us.”


The curtain call wasn’t as natural without a dugout, but the urging from Jones to get Tagovailoa to his feet still gave the crowd at SECU Stadium a chance to praise Tagovailoa while they can. The immediate future for Tagovailoa likely still involves the Terps next season, despite being draft-eligible. But for Maryland, a school that has been devoid of a quarterback of Tagovailoa’s dependability for the last decade or more, it’s never too soon to heap on appreciation.

Moments earlier, Tagovailoa found Jones over the middle for that 50th career touchdown pass — a pass that propelled Maryland far out of reach of Rutgers on Saturday. The Terps wound up earning their seventh win of the season behind that quarterback and a defense that shut out a conference opponent for the first time since 2008.

“The old adage: If you’ve got a quarterback, you’ve got a chance,” coach Mike Locksley said. “When he’s on, we’re usually on.”

Earlier in the afternoon, there was more apprehension than appreciation toward Tagovailoa. He left the field hobbled, heading to the locker room shortly before halftime with what appeared to be an aggravation of a right knee sprain he has dealt with since Sept. 24.

But Tagovailoa returned, and even though the score widened, he still led the Terps (7-5, 4-5 Big Ten) down the field en route to his record-breaking touchdown pass. Joined by running back Roman Hemby’s three-touchdown performance and Jones’ career-high 152 yards on what could be his final game in College Park, the offense left Rutgers far in the rearview.

Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa carries the ball past Rutgers defensive lineman Shawn Collins (10) during Saturday's game at SECU Stadium in College Park.

The victory marked the end of a regular season that began with ample promise, with Maryland vaulting to six wins by October. But three straight losses to Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State dampened the mood until Saturday, when Tagovailoa compiled his 12th 300-yard passing performance of his career.

With that result, Maryland secured its seventh win — the most regular-season victories under Locksley at the end of his fourth year, with a bowl game still on the horizon. Securing a seventh win also triggers a one-year contract extension for Locksley through 2027.

“Anybody that has watched the trajectory of our program sees the improvement,” Locksley said. “We’re not there yet, as I like to keep saying. We’re a few players away, a couple plays away, and it’s my job to go get those players and to create those plays so we can take another step as we build a championship program.”


The win might’ve had a dingier hue had Tagovailoa’s knee injury been more serious. The redshirt junior walked slowly from the field with a noticeable limp late in the second quarter, then made his way from the medical tent along the Maryland sideline toward Gossett Hall beyond the south end zone shortly before halftime, a development that overshadowed the 17-point advantage at the interval.

Tagovailoa has dealt with a right knee sprain since Sept. 24. He aggravated the injury and needed to be carted off the field against Indiana a few weeks later, then missed a game against Northwestern. Since his return, Maryland has lost three straight games, although Tagovailoa put together one of his best performances of the year in a close loss to No. 2 Ohio State last weekend.

But after halftime, Tagovailoa orchestrated a touchdown drive to begin the third quarter, with Hemby punching in his third score of the afternoon. And Tagovailoa remained in the game until the fourth quarter, even as he looked to avoid most collisions and appeared to move gingerly.

Maryland running back Roman Hemby (24) raises the ball after scoring a touchdown during the first half of Saturday's win over Rutgers in College Park.

The lead might’ve been larger entering halftime had Maryland not fumbled on both of its first two possessions into Rutgers territory. Those missed chances didn’t cost the Terps, however. The Scarlet Knights’ offense was incapable of moving the ball, with eight first-half drives resulting in two first downs and six punts. They managed 59 yards, punted six times and went — and failed — on a fourth-down attempt.

That ineptitude continued throughout, with Rutgers (4-8, 1-8) changing from Gavin Wimsatt to Evan Simon under center to no avail. The Scarlet Knights crossed the 50-yard line into Maryland territory just twice. Their six first downs were dwarfed by the Terps’ 30. One of their lone statistical categories that bested Maryland was its four punts downed inside the 20-yard line. And for the first time, the Terps shut out a Big Ten opponent.

“First shutout is just crazy,” linebacker Ahmad McCullough said. “The Big Ten is one of the best conferences we have in college football, and to be able to shut out, it’s crazy.”


Pinning the Terps did little to change the outcome. Tagovailoa still remained, and even hobbled, operating the Maryland offense on one good leg, he carved his way through the Rutgers defense.

It was the kind of performance at the end of the kind of season that deserved a curtain call, Jones raising Tagovailoa’s arm. It was that arm, after all, that had led Maryland to such a strong result.

Rutgers quarterback Gavin Wimsatt (2) carries the ball against Maryland defensive lineman Ami Finau (54) during the first half of Saturday's game in College Park.