COLLEGE PARK — Perhaps down the road, the Maryland football team’s second game of the 2020 season will be remembered as the breakthrough moment for young quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. For now, however, the most important thing is the program got a win.
Starting their home opener with 21 of the game’s first 28 points, the Terps slogged through a drought, but then scored the final 17 points of regulation and then outlasted the University of Minnesota, 45-44, in overtime Friday night in a Big Ten matchup.
Overtime opened with Tagovailoa scrambling 2 yards for the right pylon and scoring the touchdown. Junior kicker Joseph Petrino converted the ensuing extra-point attempt.
The Golden Gophers answered with redshirt senior wide receiver Seth Green scoring from 2 yards on a keeper. But redshirt sophomore kicker Brock Walker pushed the extra-point attempt wide right, cementing the victory for the Terps and setting off a wild celebration as players, coaches and staff members streaked from one end zone to the other.
Tagovailoa, who wore a Miami Dolphins No. 1 jersey in honor of his brother Tua who will make his first NFL start on Sunday, said he didn’t see the kick go astray because he was deep in prayer.
“I had to double-check if he missed it or not,” he said. “Then I just ran with [freshman cornerback] Tarheeb [Still].”
Sophomore defensive end Lawtez Rogers said he was unaware of the ending until junior nose tackle Ami Finau informed him of the miss.
“I wasn’t expecting him to miss that, but he missed it, and I’m glad he did because this is a big ‘W’ for us,” Rogers said. “Everybody was doubting us, but we didn’t doubt ourselves.”
The win helps Maryland avoid opening the season with back-to-back losses for the first time since 2003 when the program belonged in the Atlantic Coast Conference and lost to Northern Illinois and Florida State. The team also dodged dropping to 0-2 in the conference for the first time since 2015 when that squad opened the league slate with losses to Michigan and Ohio State.
Friday night’s outcome was marked by a trio of impressive individual performances. Fifth-year senior running back Jake Funk rushed for a career-high 221 yards on 21 carries, scored on a touchdown run, and recorded his first touchdown catch since Sept. 30, 2017, a span of 1,126 days.
Petrino booted his first 51-yard field-goal attempt off the left upright near the end of the second quarter, but connected on another 51-yarder with 7:06 left in the fourth. Not only was that his career long, but it marked the longest since Sept. 30, 2017 when Henry Darmstadter also nailed a 51-yarder at Minnesota.
And Tagovailoa, the celebrated sophomore transfer from Alabama who flopped in his NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision debut six days ago, quieted the doubters with a strong display. In Saturday’s season-opening 43-3 loss at Northwestern, Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, completed 14-of-25 passes for only 94 yards and was intercepted three times.
Against the Golden Gophers (1-1, 1-1), Tagovailoa went 26-of-35 for 394 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed eight times for 59 yards and two scores. He became the program’s first 300-yard passer since Oct. 12, 2013 when Caleb Rowe threw for 332 yards against the University of Virginia.
And although the defense allowed Minnesota redshirt junior running back Mohamed Ibrahim, a Baltimore resident, to finish with 41 carries for 207 yards and a career-high four touchdowns, the unit did shut out the Gophers for the final 17:03 of regulation.
“That was a great character win for us,” coach Mike Locksley said. “It was not pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but we got great play out of our offense, we got great play out of our defense when we needed it the most, and then our special teams came through as well. So it was a great complementary win where I thought all three phases contributed to the win.”
Tagovailoa was scintillating in the first quarter. On the Terps' first offensive possession, he completed five of six throws for 55 yards and carried the ball two times for 25 yards, including a 23-yard scamper. He capped that drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Funk.
After the defense forced Minnesota into a three-and-out, Maryland needed just three plays to gain a 14-0 advantage. Tagovailoa spun away from pressure applied by two Gophers defenders, raced down the left sideline, and needed just one block near the goal line to waltz into the end zone with 6:48 left in the period.
Minnesota responded with an eight-play, 81-yard march that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by redshirt junior running back Mohamed Ibrahim with 2:42 remaining. But Tagovailoa and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jeshaun Jones needed just one play encapsulating 76 yards and 11 seconds to regain the Terps' two-touchdown lead with Tagovailoa hitting Jones on a short slant from the left and Jones making up the rest.
That’s when the Gophers found their offensive rhythm, scoring touchdowns on three consecutive series in the first half. Ibrahim, a Baltimore resident, ended each possession with a score as he finished with 41 carries for 207 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.
Minnesota’s second score was aided by a Tagovailoa screen pass to Funk that was too low and tipped by redshirt junior defensive lineman Boye Mafe. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle DeAngelo Carter intercepted the ball and returned it 22 yards to Maryland’s 29. The Gophers scored four plays later.
The Terps had a chance to stunt some of Minnesota’s momentum near the end of the second quarter as the offense marched to the Gophers' 25-yard line with less than two minutes remaining. But a 6-yard pass from Tagovailoa to junior wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. that would have gained a first down was negated by an ineligible player downfield penalty on freshman wide receiver Rakim Jarrett. And then a 9-yard scramble by Tagovailoa that would have been long enough for another first down was wiped out by an illegal blindside block by Jones. Finally, Petrino’s 51-yard field goal attempt ricocheted off the left upright, leaving Maryland trailing, 28-21, at halftime.
Ibrahim’s success highlighted another porous effort by the Terps run defense. That unit surrendered 325 rushing yards and four scores in Saturday’s setback to the Wildcats.
After redshirt junior quarterback Tanner Morgan connected with redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell on a 39-yard scoring connection with 11:54 left in the third quarter to extend Minnesota’s advantage to 35-21, Maryland drove 84 yards to the 1-yard line. But freshman running back Peny Boone was hit by junior safety Jordan Howden in the backfield and fumbled the ball before crossing the goal line. The loose ball was recovered by senior safety Justus Harris in the end zone, resulting in a touchback.
After a Gophers field goal, the Terps ended a scoring drought of 34:10 when Tagovailoa hit Demus on a 15-yard slant route from the right side with 13:14 left in the fourth quarter to close the gap to 38-28.
That play sparked 10 more points from Maryland. First, Petrino converted his 51-yarder, and then Funk rushed twice for 50 yards on a three-play, 56-yard march completed by his 19-yard scamper off right tackle and into the end zone to tie the score at 38-38 with 3:38 left in game.
MARYLAND@NO. 18 PENN STATE
Next Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
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