Late in the fourth quarter of Maryland football’s contest with Nebraska, it looked like the Terps’ four-game losing streak would stick around for another week. In a tie game just yards away from a score, Roman Hemby fumbled the ball back to the Cornhuskers.
They capitalized on that opportunity, effortlessly driving downfield to set up a scoring opportunity of their own. But Chubba Purdy, Nebraska’s third quarterback of the game, threw a pass right to Tarheeb Still’s waiting hands.
Roman Hemby led the effort to avoid overtime. He carried the ball on four of five plays for a combined 33 yards after a Nebraska pass interference extended the drive, moving the Terps into field goal range.
Two short passes got the offense closer, and Jack Howes nailed a chip-shot field goal to win the game. Maryland (6-4) finally met the six-win mark required for bowl eligibility with a gritty 13-10 win over the Cornhuskers (5-5).
“We’re going bowling,” Howes said. “You can’t be mad about that.”
The Terps didn’t make it easy on themselves. They repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with poor execution in the run game and inexcusable penalties.
They did not gain a single rush yard in the first half. And they committed three 15-yard personal fouls, one taking Maryland out of field goal range right before half in a 7-0 game.
Tagovailoa was masterful on third-and-long all game long. That started with two conversions on the team’s first drive and another on its second — a third-and-16 throw hauled in by a sprawling Kaden Prather.
But the quarterback only had to play hero ball because his run game provided little support early. The Maryland backfield combined for zero yards on seven carries in the first half, consistently putting the Terps behind schedule offensively.
“Their front seven is one of the better front sevens,” coach Michael Locksley said. “We knew that it would be tough to run the ball. So we had a game plan where we were able to get the ball out of [Taulia’s] hands early.”
On the Cornhuskers’ first offensive drive, Maryland had three chances to get off the field.
The first came when safety Dante Trader picked off an errant throw from Nebraska quarterback Heinrich Haarberg — but defensive holding negated the turnover. Four plays later, Maryland forced the Cornhuskers into a punt situation, but a fake-punt run to the upback moved the chains again.
Finally, Dante Trader Jr. intercepted another Haarberg overthrow. And there was no yellow laundry on the field to take it away.
“These are some of the plays over the last four weeks that we weren’t making,” Locksley said. “Today we did, and we know that’s our winning formula.”
But the Terps got nothing from the ensuing possession, which once again stalled just outside field goal range.
That trend continued for nearly all of the first half. An offense that couldn’t find consistency on the ground also didn’t create explosives through the air — something Maryland has relied on all year.
Outside of Prather’s 3rd-and-16 conversion, the Terps did not pick up 15 or more yards on a pass until late in the second quarter, when Tai Felton took matters into his own hands.
On the first play following a Nebraska turnover on downs, the junior receiver burned his man over the top and Tagovailoa placed a 52-yard deep shot in a perfect spot. One play later, Felton caught a quick hitch, made a man miss and raced into the endzone to finish Maryland’s only touchdown drive of the game.
Meanwhile, Nebraska’s offense had to adjust to a new quarterback when Haarberg left the game with an injury. In his first drive, Jeff Sims let his team’s run game — one that ran for 183 yards on the day — carry him downfield before being stuffed on a 4th-down read option.
That trend continued for the rest of his outing. Before he was subbed out, Sims threw completed 8-of-13 passes for just 62 yards. He ran the ball 10 times.
But Maryland’s self-inflicted wounds allowed the Cornhuskers to swing the momentum in the third quarter. They turned a Felton fumble and Tagovailoa interception — both inside Maryland territory — into 10 points, enough to take the lead in an ugly game for both teams.
The Terps made it all the way to the Cornhusker 3-yard line before Hemby fumbled the ball away in what could have been a game-losing blunder. But Purdy, who entered the game for Nebraska’s last drive, made the true game-losing mistake.
“That’s the name of the game sometimes,” Tagovailoa said. “You’re gonna have ups and downs in the games, and you just got to continue.”
- Maryland football’s defense rose to the occasion in its toughest test of the season - November 20, 2023
- Maryland football vs No. 2 Michigan preview - November 17, 2023
- Game-winning field goal snaps Maryland football’s four-game losing streak - November 11, 2023