After Maryland football’s 34-16 loss to Minnesota on Saturday afternoon, there was a gloomy presence surrounding the Terps, who opened the season with an impressive 4-0 record.
For the third straight game, Maryland was blown out by a Big Ten Conference opponent, making coach Mike Locksley question the team’s pride.
Although the Terps (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten) entered Saturday’s game at Huntington Bank Stadium two wins away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2016, they didn’t appear to play with a sense of urgency. Maryland’s defense constantly missed tackles, as Minnesota ran all over the field even without its top two running backs, Baltimore native Mohamed Ibrahim and Trey Potts, who are sidelined with season-ending injuries.
“For us to have two weeks to prepare for this game and to come out and execute the way we did was very disappointing,” Locksley said. “What we’ve got to do is figure out how to get this thing fixed because we’ve got a great opportunity next week with homecoming, being back in The Shell against Indiana. But as I told our team, come Monday we’re going to coach whoever shows up that has the mindset that they have enough pride to get this thing fixed. Right about now, pride comes into play.”
Saturday’s meeting was nowhere close to resembling last year’s high-scoring overtime thriller that featured late-game heroics by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. The Golden Gophers used their enormous offensive line to pave the way for 326 rushing yards, while the Terps offense continued to struggle searching for a consistent playmaker since senior receiver Dontay Demus Jr. suffered a season-ending knee injury in a blowout loss to then-No. 5 Iowa earlier this month.
Even after using a bye week to be physically and mentally prepared, Maryland looked clueless against Minnesota’s game plan of running the ball and chewing up the clock. For Locklsey, it all starts with accountability.
“Everybody needs to really take a deep look into themselves and make sure that you’re doing everything you can in your power to prepare and give yourself a chance to win on Saturday,” Locksley said. “It wasn’t as if they did anything that we didn’t expect and we still didn’t get it done, and that’s on me as a coach.”
With the game tied at 3 during the closing seconds of the first quarter, Gophers running back Ky Thomas raced down the field for a 38-yard gain. Running back Mar’Keise Irving opened the second quarter with a 21-yard run before backup quarterback Cole Kramer scored on a 2-yard run to take a 10-3 lead.
Kramer was one of four Minnesota players to record a rushing touchdown, as the Gophers averaged 5.8 yards per carry.
After Tagovailoa fumbled on the Terps’ opening possession, Minnesota forced a three-and-out on Maryland’s next drive. With the Gophers driving deep into Maryland territory, senior defensive lineman Ami Finau was called for a personal foul, which gave Minnesota a first-and-10 at the Terps’ 16-yard line. Two plays later, Thomas — who finished with a team-high 139 yards on 21 carries — ran 10 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-3.
Maryland has played seven games this season, yet penalties continue to be an issue. In the first half, the Terps were called for six penalties for 65 yards, and finished the game with eight penalties for 79 yards.
“We didn’t play the ball in the air well with the [defensive pass interference] early in the game,” Locksley said. “We had the hands to the face. The crack back blocks at the end are just stupid. And to me, those are the ones where those guys got to be held.”
With under five minutes to go in the second quarter, Tagovailoa tried to jolt Maryland’s offense with a 43-yard pass to wide receiver Marcus Fleming to put the Terps at Minnesota’s 25-yard line.
On a critical third-and-3, running back Tayon Fleet-Davis (8 carries for 21 yards) ran up the middle for a 13-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 17-10 with 4:05 remaining in the first half.
Despite the home team leading by a touchdown, the sound of boos echoed throughout Huntington Bank Stadium during the closing seconds of the first half. With Minnesota facing a third-and-11 at Maryland’s 20-yard line, the Gophers elected to spike the ball instead of taking a shot towards the end zone. The boos grew louder when Minnesota’s 38-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by sophomore defensive back Tarheeb Still, keeping the game 17-10 at halftime.
Minnesota (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) bounced back from that missed opportunity during the first drive of the third quarter. Quarterback Tanner Morgan (8-for-12 for 125 yards) threw a 35-yard pass to receiver Mike Brown-Stephens before running back Bryce Williams scored on a 2-yard run to give the Gophers a 24-10 lead with 9:18 left in the third quarter.
“It was kind of disappointing, but we knew it was coming,” Maryland sophomore linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II said. “We got to be more physical than our opponents and execute.”
With 7:29 left in the third quarter, Maryland’s last opportunity to get back into the game came down to a fourth-and-1. Tagovailoa rolled to the right before throwing to junior tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo, who dropped the pass.
Minnesota then drove down the field before Irving (15 carries for 105 yards) delivered the dagger by rushing 9 yards for a touchdown that gave the Gophers a 31-10 advantage.
The Terps’ best offensive drive of the afternoon came late in the fourth quarter, when they marched 91 yards on 12 plays. Tagovailoa threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Marcus Fleming, who made a one-handed grab. Maryland, however, failed to convert the 2-point conversion.
Tagovailoa finished 17-for-27 with 189 yards and a touchdown, just the second time this season he’s been held under 200 passing yards.
Minnesota had control of the football for 35:03 while recording 26 first downs and going 7-for-12 on third-down conversions. Locksley said Minnesota’s ability to control the clock put pressure on the offense to make plays in a short amount of time.
“It makes every offensive drive that much more important,” Locksley said. “I thought we play well on first and second down then [Minnesota] run the ball on third down and we can’t get off the field. Like I said we had two weeks, knowing that this was what they wanted to do and, we didn’t get it done.”
Saturday’s loss was a missed opportunity, as Maryland’s quest for six wins to qualify for a bowl game gets even tougher. After next week’s homecoming game against Indiana, the Terps will face No. 7 Penn State, No. 9 Michigan State and No. 6 Michigan before concluding the season against Rutgers. After beating Illinois, 20-17, in its Big Ten opener, Maryland has been outscored 151-47 in conference play.
“I just think guys just have to pride,” said sophomore receiver Rakim Jarrett, who tallied 56 yards on four receptions. “Be more desperate to win than be OK losing. You see three losses like this, it’s actually terrible in my opinion. We have to get back to work.”
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