Maryland Football Continues to Spiral in 33-27 Loss to Northwestern
October 28, 2023 | Andrew Chodes | 3:56pm EDT
EVANSTON, Ill. – Losses come in all shapes and sizes. But not often are they so demoralizing to make you think twice about the state of a program. The bye week should have allowed Maryland football to heal up, gather itself after two straight tough losses, and come out strong against an inferior opponent in Northwestern. But it didn’t.
A Disappointing Loss
Despite an overall uninspiring performance by the Terps, they still had a chance to win. Facing a six-point deficit in the final minutes, Maryland had the ball at Northwestern’s 31-yard line. But quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw an interception on third down to seal a 33-27 defeat. “A really disappointing loss,” Maryland head coach Mike Locksley said. “Give Northwestern credit, they outplayed us, and when that happens, you got to look at everything, including myself, right? Everybody that made this trip played a part in what happened today, and it’s really disappointing.”
Tagovailoa’s Costly Mistakes
Up a touchdown early, Tagovailoa did what he has too often done in his career — give the opposition needless momentum. There was no visible pressure in his face, but Maryland’s veteran signal-caller saw the football slip right out of his hands into those of the Wildcats. The mistake gave Northwestern a short field that led to a tying score, but more importantly offered confidence to usual backup quarterback Brendan Sullivan.
Maryland’s secondary was porous in the first half, allowing Sullivan to carve right through it. Sullivan, who finished with less than 200 passing yards in each of his first two starts this season, finished the half 12-for-14 with 159 yards and two touchdowns. He ended the game with 265 yards through the air. Northwestern came into Saturday’s contest averaging 20.1 points per game. It scored its 21st point with over 12 minutes to go in the opening half.
Lack of Discipline and Offensive Inefficiency
Between three after-the-whistle penalties, each gifting Northwestern a first down, and Tai Felton being flagged for kick catch interference, the Terps also showed a lack of discipline. “I got to get that fixed,” Locksley said.
On the offensive side of the ball, Maryland did itself no favors. The Terps entered the half down only seven points, but there will be restless nights for the coaching staff over one particular set of plays. With a chance to even the game at 21, Maryland had second-and-goal at the 1-yard line. First, a sneak by Tagovailoa came up short. On the ensuing play, Tagovailoa had room on a scramble, but threw an incompletion across his body. Any halftime adjustments the Terps made didn’t show on the offensive side of the ball.
The defense did its job, holding the Wildcats to just nine second-half points, giving Tagovailoa a chance to lead Maryland to victory. But the Terps managed less than 200 yards of total offense in the second half, scoring just 10 points on six drives and punctuating the game with a turnover. Even though Maryland disappointed throughout, what will sting the most is it still had a chance to avoid the monumental defeat.
Reflections on Maryland Football
Here the Terps are, sitting at 5-3 after a hot start to the season fueled by unbridled optimism. Bowl eligibility is no longer a guarantee. So the question begs: what is Maryland football about? “We got guys back healthy and had intense practices. Did the things that we need to do to play well,” Locksley said. “So again, I have to evaluate what I’m doing to make sure we’re prepared to play well. But I also know that accountability is horizontal in our program and our players.”
This loss to Northwestern highlights the challenges faced by the Maryland football program. It raises questions about their overall strategy, coaching, and ability to compete consistently at a high level. The team’s promising start this season has now been overshadowed by a three-game losing streak, exposing weaknesses in both the offense and defense.
One of the major concerns is the performance of quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. While he has shown flashes of brilliance, his inconsistency and costly mistakes have hindered the team’s success. The coaching staff must address this issue and determine if there are any adjustments that can be made to support Tagovailoa’s growth and minimize his turnovers.
The lack of discipline displayed by the team, including penalties and mental errors, is another pressing issue that needs to be addressed. These mistakes not only give the opposing team opportunities but also undermine the team’s overall performance and cohesion. Coach Locksley must emphasize the importance of discipline and accountability to ensure that these issues are rectified moving forward.
Furthermore, the offensive inefficiency in critical situations, as observed in the red zone, is a significant concern. Failing to convert scoring opportunities can be demoralizing for the team and hinder their ability to win close games. The coaching staff must analyze their play-calling and execution in these situations to find ways to improve their offensive production.
Advice for Maryland Football
The Maryland football program must use this defeat as a catalyst for change and improvement. It is essential for the coaches and players to remain focused and address the key issues discussed above. This includes improving Tagovailoa’s decision-making and ball security, fostering discipline and reducing penalties, and refining the offense’s execution in critical situations.
Moreover, the coaching staff must evaluate their game preparation and strategy to ensure that the team is adequately prepared and has a clear vision for success on both sides of the ball. This evaluation should extend to player development, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and formulating a plan to maximize the potential of the roster.
Overall, the Maryland football program needs to rediscover its identity and establish a culture of excellence and consistency. This will require the collective effort of the coaching staff, players, and support staff. While this may be a challenging task, it is not insurmountable. With the right adjustments and a commitment to improvement, the Terps can regain their early-season momentum and achieve their goals for the remainder of the season.
<< photo by Emma Bauso >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.
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