Preview: Maryland football looking to get back on track against Nebraska

(Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

Maryland football (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten) searches for its first win in over a month at Nebraska (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) on Saturday. 

Adversity has been a common occurrence for the Terps as they dropped their last four games after starting the season 5-0. Both teams are searching for their sixth win to become bowl eligible, but Maryland is more focused on getting back on track. 

Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jordan Phillips says that despite the adversity, players and coaches haven’t wavered. 

“I feel like we’re showing up every day,” he said, “and how we handle academics and how we handle practice, I feel like we’re showing up with the right attitude and the right mentality. “And in my eyes, I feel like that’s the first step to taking on adversity.”

Maryland didn’t watch the film from last week’s 51-15 loss to No. 11 Penn State, coach Michael Locksley said, stating the tape did not meet the team’s standard.  The Terps’ defense gave up 27 points in the fourth quarter alone and 404 yards of offense — the most allowed all season.

The offense netted just 234 yards, the lowest mark of the season. Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 283 yards but the Terps lost 49 yards due to sacks and the running game. 

“I’m sure some coaches watched it, but we didn’t watch it,” receiver Jeshaun Jones said. “I don’t know, I think our message to the team is just ‘Let’s get it together.’” 

At the helm for Nebraska is Matt Rhule, whose team had a chance to win four straight games. Nebraska defeated Illinois, Northwestern and Purdue. Then against Michigan State, the team turned the ball over with two minutes left with a chance to tie or win the game. 

The Cornhuskers offense has been one dimensional this season, ranking first in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (185.4) and second to last in the conference in passing yards per game (131.9). 

Sophomore quarterback Heinrich Haarberg has struggled to throw the ball this season. He doesn’t have a game this season over 200 passing yards or over a 60 percent completion rate. But he has excelled tremendously as a runner.

Haarberg leads his team in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and carries. He’s even out rushed running back Roman Hemby so far this season. 

Nebraska features a run-heavy offense with 58 percent of its snaps being run plays. Conversely, Maryland is a pass-happy team with 64 percent of its snaps being pass plays.  

The Cornhuskers have been particularly proficient on the defensive side against the run. Opponents have averaged 77 rushing yards per game against Nebraska and under three yards per carry, third-lowest among FBS teams.

“They have a unique defensive structure that they play,” Locksley said. “They’re based out of a four-down front … with two corners and a nickel and they execute their scheme really, really well.”

Nebraska’s young front seven can also rush the passer. Its 28 sacks rank second in the conference. Five different Cornhuskers have charted 15 or more pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. 

This creates a difficult offensive matchup for the Terps. Last week, Maryland running backs rushed for -6 yards on seven carries. The offensive line has also surrendered 12 sacks in the last two games. 

“We’re working hard to get the run game corrected and figure out what are the best runs … based on what we’re doing on our offensive line and based on what our backs can get executed,” Locksley said.

The teams have only met twice and Nebraska boasts a 2-0 advantage over Maryland. They last met in College Park where the Cornhuskers dominated the Terps 54-7 in Locksley’s first full season as Terps head coach.  

Kickoff on Saturday is set for noon at Memorial Stadium. 

Posted by Michael Rovetto