Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland football unable to halt Minnesota ground attack, drops third straight, 34-16

By Logan Hill

Facing fourth-and-one from their own 34 down a pair of touchdowns, Taulia Tagovailoa took the snap and rolled out to his right. He attempted a strike to Chig Okonkwo for a first down to keep the drive alive, but the ball hit the turf, as did Maryland’s shot at a comeback.

Despite having a week off to work out the kinks, Maryland football couldn’t rebound on the road against Minnesota, falling to the Golden Gophers, 34-16.

Minnesota bullied Maryland on the ground, racking up a season-high 326 rushing yards, controlling the game from pretty much start to finish.

“Obviously, today was not good enough,” Head Coach Mike Locksley said. “Not good enough from a coaching standpoint, not good enough from a performance standpoint. We often say that, it’s our job as coaches to teach and demand, and it’s the players’ job to prepare and perform. We didn’t get that done today.”

Right off the bat, Maryland shot themselves in the foot. After picking up a first down and getting close to midfield, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was stripped trying to escape the pocket, and Minnesota recovered. Fortunately for the Terps, Matthew Trickett’s 50-yard field goal attempt swung outside, keeping the game scoreless.

The Terps worked their way into the Minnesota red zone after the missed field goal, thanks in part to a 38-yard completion to wide receiver Rakim Jarrett. An offensive pass interference penalty inside the 15 pushed them back out of the red zone, after threatening to score the game’s first touchdown. Kicker Joseph Petrino converted a 47-yard field goal on 4th and 26, to give Maryland the lead 3-0.

Minnesota responded with a Field Goal drive of their own. Aided by a 28-yard catch and run from Tanner Morgan to Mar’Keise Irving out of the backfield, the Golden Gophers marched to the Maryland 20 yard line. Trickett connected from 37 yards away to tie the game at three a piece.

After a Maryland punt, Minnesota again went to work on the ground. Ky Rush broke things open, picking up 38 yards down the left sideline. Two plays later, Irving scampered for 21 to the Terps’ 5. On second and goal, quarterback Cole Kramer kept it for a two-yard touchdown, putting the Golden Gophers up 10-3. It took Minnesota less than 16 minutes of game time to reach 100 yards on the ground, as they used a multitude of rushers to gash the Terps defense.

Maryland punted again after Tagovailoa was sacked on third down and Minnesota added a second straight touchdown. Ky Thomas found paydirt from 10 yards out, capping off a seven-play, 68-yard drive, with 41 of those yards via the ground. What was once a 3-3 ball game, had quickly become a 17-3 drubbing.

Tagovailoa and company would respond on their next possession, marching 75 yards in eight plays, with Tayon Fleet-Davis finding the end zone from 13 yards away. After watching Minnesota’s offense dominate on the ground, Tagovailoa went to the air, connecting with Marcus Fleming for 43 yards, to put the ball at the Golden Gophers 20. Fleet-Davis & Peny Boone did the rest, picking up the last 20 yards on the ground and making it a one score game at 17-10.

Minnesota threatened to add three more to their lead, after working their way into Maryland territory once again. Tarheeb Still came off the edge and blocked Trickett’s 38-yard attempt, keeping it a one score game as the teams headed to the locker rooms.

Penalties, like they have all season, once again plagued the Terps. Through the first half, Maryland was flagged six times for 65 yards, further assisting a Minnesota attack that was knifing through the front seven at ease.

Minnesota orchestrated another long touchdown drive to start the third quarter, driving 75 yards on 11 plays. Morgan made his first big play of the game through the air, connecting with Mike Brown-Stephens for 35 yards. Brown-Stephens was forced out of bounds at the Maryland four, setting up Bryce Williams, who reached the end zone after back-to-back two yard runs. Minnesota once again led by two touchdowns, pulling ahead 24-10.

On Maryland’s next drive, Coach Locksley made the decision to go for it on fourth down after Fleet-Davis was stopped short on third-and-one. Tagovailoa’s attempt fell flat, giving Minnesota the ball deep in Maryland territory. 

It took only four plays, all runs, for Minnesota to score again. Mar’Kiese Irving found space along the left side and reached the end zone for the second time, breaking the game open at 31-10.

From there, Maryland was forced to punt again and Minnesota continued their ground assault. The Golden Gophers embarked on a 13-play, 55-yard drive that used 8:42 of game time. Trickett added a field goal for insurance, making it 34-10. Minnesota didn’t put the ball in the air once, picking up all of their yards on the ground.

“We had two weeks knowing that this is what they wanted to do, and we didn’t get it done,” Locksley said.

Maryland would add a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. Tagovailoa found Fleming, who pulled in the pass with one hand for a 17-yard touchdown. Tagovailoa’s two point attempt fell incomplete, as the Terps scored for the first time in the second half, making it 34-16.

Minnesota ran out the rest of the clock, capping off a dominant performance on the ground.

Tagovailoa finished the day 17-27 for 189 yards and a touchdown, but a ferocious defensive effort from the Golden Gophers kept the junior from ever getting comfortable.

“We’ll go in, we’ll look at the tape. We’ll make any necessary adjustments we need to make,” Locksley said. “We don’t have a lot of time to hang on what just happened, because we’ve got a great opportunity against Indiana at home this week.”

For Maryland, their third straight loss has left the team with even more questions to answer as they venture into the second half of the 2021 season. With three of their final five games against current AP top ten opponents, The Terps will face an uphill battle as they look to reach a bowl game for the first time since 2016.

“We [have] to play with pride. We [have] to simplify the game,” linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II said. “Technique and effort, at the end of the day that’s what it comes down to. It’s not all about X’s and O’s all the time, it’s just about heart, who wants it more. We just [have] to keep on fighting.”

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