Coach Michael Locksley previously referred to Maryland football’s matchup against Michigan as a “breakthrough” type of game for the program. There was hope that the Terps could shock the nation in front of a national audience despite the fact that they never defeated a top five team at home since defeating No. 5 Florida State in 2004.
They almost revised history, but it was Michigan that claimed its NCAA-leading 1,000th victory and extended its program record to 23 straight wins against conference opponents. In what will go down as the last home game for many Maryland’s seniors, the Terps put forth a valiant effort against No. 2 Michigan despite losing 31-24 on Saturday.
“I’m not up here to celebrate a moral victory at all,” Locksley said. “But to have a break through win, our team played the script to a tee except the finish. To me, down 20 we still had a chance to win and our team continued to fight.”
Maryland’s 24 points scored was the most the Wolverines allowed all season. Michigan held the number one scoring defense in the FBS, holding opponents to 7.5 points per game entering the matchup.
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is one of those seniors that played his final game in College Park. He led his team down the field with a number of impressive drives while completing 21 passes for 247 yards. Unfortunately for Terps fans, Tagovailoa’s last two plays in front of his fans ended in an interception and a safety.
“I feel like there was a receiver in the vicinity,” said Tagovailoa regarding an intentional grounding call that resulted in the safety. “Playing at Maryland they don’t give us those calls like that. We knew that going into the game and just can’t make mistakes like that backed up.”
While Tagovailoa recorded three turnovers, it was backup signal caller Billy Edwards Jr. who facilitated the scoring. He scored three rushing touchdowns, each from a quarterback sneak from the one yard line.
Another senior on the defensive side of the ball, safety Beau Brade, had one of his best games of the season. He recorded a team-high 11 total tackles to go along with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.
“I think that we realized the game is in our grasp, we just got to lock in, do our job,” Brade said. “This is probably the best game we played together as a defense.”
Brade was a part of a second half defense that allowed just 95 total yards and forced four punts. However, two of Tommy Doman’s punts pinned Maryland inside its own 20 yard line. Those two punts led to Tagovailoa’s interception and safety while backed up.
Blake Corum rushed for two touchdowns in the first half, the second of which was his FBS-leading 20th of the season. Michigan also added a blocked punt resulting in a safety and a defensive score to take a commanding 23-3 lead early in the second quarter.
Maryland never folded and instead responded to adversity throughout the game. Edwards ended the Terps’ dryspell with a quarterback sneak touchdown and sophomore linebacker Jaishawn Barham intercepted J.J. McCarthy in the redzone. Maryland entered the locker room trailing 23-10 but with plenty of momentum.
That momentum carried into the second half. Nine plays and 78 yards later, Edwards capped off another drive with a rushing touchdown, making it a one score game.
An interception by defensive back Mike Sainristil flipped the positive momentum and suddenly Michigan was back in control. Freshman wide receiver Semaj Morgan rushed for his first career touchdown and it was once again a two score game.
Edwards scored for the third time to make it a one-touchdown game, 29-24. But the Terps couldn’t find the endzone in the fourth quarter despite the defense performing best when it mattered the most.
Maryland left everything it had on the field and played one of its most complete games of the season. It may not have ended in a win, but nearly upsetting one of the best teams in the NCAA will be a memory that sticks with many of the Terps seniors.
“This team showed up today and fought the champion until the end,” Locksley said. “We’ll be able to build off of this … as a program.”
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