To get a sense of how improbable the Maryland football team’s thrilling 45-44 overtime victory over Minnesota was Friday night, the program had previously been 0-71 when trailing by 17 points or more in the fourth quarter.
The Terps had opened the final period against the Golden Gophers in a 38-21 hole. They then scored the final 17 points of regulation, got a 2-yard touchdown run from sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and an extra point from junior kicker Joseph Petrino, and watched Minnesota redshirt sophomore kicker Brock Walker push an extra-point attempt wide right in the extra session.
The 17-point rally in the fourth quarter is the fourth-largest comeback in a game involving Big Ten opponents since 2004, trailing 21-point rallies by Illinois against Michigan State in 2019, Rutgers against Indiana in 2015, and Michigan State against Northwestern in 2006.
Maryland won in overtime for the first time since Sept. 17, 2016 when that squad outlasted Central Florida, 30-24, in two extra sessions. The school is now 7-4 in overtime games, including 3-1 at home.
Here are some takeaways from Maryland’s victory:
That was the Taulia Tagovailoa fans — and Mike Locksley — had hoped for
The sophomore transfer from Alabama decisively buried memories of his 14-of-25, 94-yard, three-interception outing in a 43-3 setback at Northwestern on Oct. 24 by completing 26 of 35 passes for 394 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also ran eight times for 59 yards and two scores.
Tagovailoa became the third player in Big Ten history in the last 20 years to finish a game with 350 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and two rushing scores, joining Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State in 2018 and Zak Kustok of Northwestern in 2001. His 394 yards are the most since Danny O’Brien threw for 417 yards against North Carolina State on Nov. 27, 2010 and rank 10th in the Terps' single-game history.
But more than the numbers, Tagovailoa looked confident and decisive, hitting receivers in stride and taking some deep shots when they became available. And when the pocket broke down, he wasn’t afraid to extend the play to find receivers downfield or tuck the ball and run.
“It’s not so much about myself, but I think us as a team, we showed a lot of grit, a lot of fight, and a lot of perseverance,” Tagovailoa said. “To come from a loss like that and for our team to continue to fight, Minnesota is a very good team, and we knew it was going to be a fistfight. We thought it was going to be four quarters, but we had an extra quarter in there. I think it just shows what kind of team we have, and hopefully we can build on this.”
That was why Jake Funk returned for a fifth season
After back-to-back ACL tears in the left knee that wiped out his 2018 and 2019 seasons, the running back from Gaithersburg could have traded in his gear and walked off into the sunset. But the state’s all-time high school leader in rushing touchdowns believed he had something left in the tank.
Funk certainly demonstrated what he is capable of, setting career highs in carries (21) and rushing yards (221) and registering his first touchdown catch since Sept. 30, 2017, a span of 1,126 days. His output was the 11th-most in a single game in Maryland history and the most since Nov. 17, 2018 when Anthony McFarland Jr. erupted for 298 yards against Ohio State.
Funk hit gaps quickly and showed some shifty footwork, but he made sure his teammates shared in any postgame adulation.
“I was seeing open holes,” he said. “The five linemen up front did a great job, and the tight ends, too, blocking, and also the receivers down the field. It was a collective team effort. I’m just the one who gets the credit for the rushing yards. It’s all 11 guys blocking.”
The brittle defense shored up at the right time
As impressive as the display on offense was, the victory would not have been possible if not for the defense — which might be odd considering how porous that unit looked for much of the game.
Through the first three quarters, Minnesota had produced 408 yards of total offense and 38 points, and redshirt junior running back Mohamed Ibrahim, a Baltimore resident, had racked up more than 150 rushing yards and four touchdown runs.
But in the fourth quarter, the Terps defense forced the Gophers into three-and-outs on their first two possessions and then limited them to 17 yards on five plays in their final series. In the fourth quarter and overtime, Maryland gave up only 43 yards on 15 plays (an average of 2.9 yards) and — perhaps more importantly — did not allow Minnesota to hold onto the ball for longer than 2:26, which opened the door for the offense to mount the comeback.
“I think we just kept going, and we just played hard,” sophomore defensive end Lawtez Rogers said. “At the end of the day, we all have a job, the defense, and we all have our one-eleventh, and I felt like in the third quarter and second half, we really stepped up and took our role, each play that we had seriously. We didn’t take no for an answer.”
Penalties almost cost the Terps
Last season, Maryland ranked among the top half of Big Ten in terms of most penalized teams. That squad ranked seventh in penalties with 70 and yards lost per game at 48.8.
This year’s team is on pace to eclipse those numbers. After incurring six penalties for 60 yards at Northwestern, the Terps were flagged 10 times for 97 yards against the Gophers.
Locksley said he doesn’t terribly mind the infractions that occur during the evolution of plays such as pass interference calls on sophomore cornerback Deonte Banks, freshman cornerback Tarheeb Still and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jeshaun Jones, and holding penalties on junior left guard Johari Branch and redshirt freshman tight end Malik Jackson.
But presnap infractions like the false start committed by sophomore left tackle Jaelyn Duncan are avoidable, and the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on sophomore defensive tackle Mosiah Nasili-Kite is especially galling to Locksley.
“It’s an Achilles' heel,” Locksley said. “You’re not going to win a lot of games when you have the type of penalties and turnovers we have. We’ve got to continue to work through these things. We’ve got to continue to coach these young players to understand the importance of protecting the football on offense. The penalties, I don’t have a problem with the penalties that you’re making during the course of a play. But the bonehead unsportsmanlikes and talking to the other team and late hits, those types of things won’t be tolerated, and we have to get them cleaned up. It starts with me making sure that we’re enforcing them and that we’re playing smart and clean football.”
MARYLAND@NO. 18 PENN STATE
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
TV: BTN Radio: 105.7 FM
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