Maryland battled back from an early 16-3 deficit, eventually falling 31-24 on senior day as head coach Mike Locksley reviewed the fifth loss in six games.
“We withstood the onslaught early in the first half. Going in at the halftime, we knew that coming out and scoring early and getting a three and out to get us back in the game, and we were able to do it. When you play a champion like Michigan, you’ve got to understand, they won’t give it to you and our guys need to continue to understand that we’re going to have to go take it, whether it’s against them and the crowd. They had a great crowd show up here for us,” Locksley said.
“But you know what, there are no moral victories, but this is definitely one of those games that I feel as a program that we’ll be able to build off of. We’ve got one more regular season opportunity for our seniors, which to me, a game like this is, it hurts more because of the group of seniors and the leadership that some of the guys that have been around here that made a decision to come here when it was just a vision we were selling.”
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa finished 21-of-31 for 247 yards, but accounted for all three turnovers along with an intentional grounding that resulted in a safety in the loss as Michigan generated four sacks and six TFLs.
“It’s always tough when you have two turnovers. I know the fumble return for the touchdown on offense, the grounding. Just on the offensive side of the ball we didn’t win the turnover battle. And as I’ve said, I mean, good teams don’t beat themselves. And, you know, Lia is a fighter. He’s a competitor. You can count on him. I know he’ll show up again next week the way we need him to and help lead us, but really proud of the effort that he displayed today. But, we didn’t get the job done.”
Everything that Mike Locksley said following Saturday’s loss.
“As always give credit to our opponent. Michigan did a really good job of having their team prepared for a game like this with all the things they got going on up [in] their neck of the woods. Their team continued to show tremendous resiliency, but I’m also proud of the way our team fought. I’m not up here to celebrate a moral victory at all, but you know what, to have a breakthrough win, our team played the script to a tee except the finish. And to me, down 20 and we still had a chance to win, our team continued to fight. We knew that we would have to take their best. We withstood the onslaught early in the first half. Going in at halftime, we knew that coming out and scoring early and getting a three and out to get us back in the game, and we were able to do it. When you play a champion like Michigan, you’ve got to understand, they won’t give it to you and our guys need to continue to understand that we’re going to have to go take it, whether it’s against them and the crowd. They had a great crowd show up here for us, but you know what, there are no moral victories, but this is definitely one of those games that I feel as a program that we’ll be able to build off of. We’ve got one more regular season opportunity for our seniors, which to me, a game like this is, it hurts more because of the group of seniors and the leadership that some of the guys that have been around here that made a decision to come here when it was just a vision we were selling. We had quite a few guys that we brought in for one year and they bought in immediately and so the leadership that this group has provided has been phenomenal for us. And so we owe it to them as we go up to Rutgers next week, which it’s always tough, as I say, to win on the road in the Big Ten, especially against Rutgers who has really done some good things this year as a program. But I tell you what, this team will continue to fight and I’m proud of them. Again, there’s no moral victory, but I can tell you that you know what, this team showed up today and fought the champion to the end or to the fourth quarter and came up short. We’ll be able to build off of this and as a program, I know we will.”
On handling Michigan’s pass-rush and pressure
“I think the big thing is most of the pressure came with a four-man rush. And to me, they played coverage behind it. Very few times did they outnumber the box or bring pressure. I think they had maybe one zero check on third down. And so what we’ve got to be able to do is obviously when people play us in coverage, there’s some opportunities where you have to check the ball down and get to that a little quicker. I think we found ourselves holding on to the football. We did give up some pressure on the interior, which has kind of been an Achilles heel for us, is our inability to keep things firm for our quarterback especially when we have opportunities to throw the ball down the field. But again, give Michigan credit. They did a good job of creating the sacks and winning some of those one-on-one battles and we’ve got to do a better job of protecting the quarterback.”
On Maryland’s offensive execution in the fourth quarter
“We never changed the field position. Two punts, of course the football Gods laughed at us and dropped the ball there at the one-inch line for us to have to go win the game. And that’s where we have to learn to be able to execute critical situations with our back to it. Things we practice, that’s coming out the offense. And, you know, we ended up giving up a safety. I’m not going to get into that part of the call there, but you know what, wherever the ball ends up to start a drive on offense, we’ve got to figure out how to execute and how to execute in critical situations. Our defense did a really good job all second half of giving us these opportunities. But again, you can’t hope or pray that they make the mistake. We have to go execute at a high level and we didn’t get that done.”
On the narrative that Taulia Tagovailoa’s career ends without a signature win
“Well, I think he’s had quite a few signature wins. I’d hold the horses on him leaving here without a signature win. I mean, the guy just led us the three straight bowl games, could end up being the all-time leading passer in the history of this conference. So I think what he’s done here is pretty significant to me.”
On what it will take to get over the hump
“Players making a play and then us as coaches, making sure we’re putting them in the best possible position. It’s no secret formula to it. I mean, we’ve got to give them the good plan and then they’ve got to execute. And I think both sides as players and coaches, we all understand that. The only way over is to get it done and you ain’t gonna get it done by talking about it. We’ve got to execute in critical situations against really good teams to win games like this.”
On Maryland’s defensive efforts in the second half
“Our defense has given us opportunities like this and if you look at how we’re built on defense, we’ve got an older group over there. We’ve got some tremendous leadership over there. Both those safeties and a veteran [defensive] line and linebackers. And you know what? Our defense has played pretty good defense throughout the course of the year. Now has it been consistent enough? No, but today they definitely gave us opportunities to win the game with how we played and on the offensive side of the ball, we were not able to capitalize in the critical parts of the game where we just needed to make a play or two. We had to protect a little better. We had to run block a little better and we had to make better decisions and we just didn’t get that done today, man. But again, the fight was there, the effort was there. The preparation was there. The finish wasn’t, and that’s on me as coach to figure out how to get us to finish games like this.”
On carrying the defensive effort into the season finale & bowl game
“That part I feel good about because this team is built to keep just working. I mean, that’s what when I talk about it, you know, last night we had a bunch of seniors get up and talk to their team as we do as a tradition in the last home game and to hear about the camaraderie that this group and the brotherhood of this group displayed and you’ve got guys that have been around here a long time talking about the nucleus and culture of this team. And to me, it’s what I’ve been saying all year long and it’s unfortunate that we haven’t performed up to the expectation we have because games like this are games that I feel like we should be able to finish and win. And I’m gonna keep pushing these guys. I’m gonna keep figuring out what I need to do or what I can do better as the leader of this thing to get us over the hump. Because, you know what, these kids bought into just about everything we’ve asked of them and now what we’ve got to do is get them back together again one more time to go up the Rutgers and find a way to send our seniors out the best possible way we can send them out with number seven.”
On WR Kaden Prather’s progression and impact this season
“We brought Kaden in here to do just that. We lost some firepower at the receiver position a year ago with guys like Dontay Demas and Rakim Jarrett and Jacob Copeland leaving and having opportunities at the next level. And so to be able to go get a guy like Kaden, which we knew a lot about. We recruited him pretty heavily out of high school. He’s come in and really done a good job. He’s one of those guys that I talked about earlier, these guys that come in and that we’ve brought in through the portal that have bought into the culture that we have here. It’s not surprising that you’ll see him get better and better and him continue to develop because of the type of program we have. And, and it’s great to have a player like him here and have him in position to make these type of plays ’cause he’s capable.”
On the qualities that Maryland has to fight through adversity
“It’s just part of the culture that has been created. I mean, they understand hard work. We understand here at Maryland that it’s not easy. It’s not easy in that any and everything that we do from a football program standpoint is going to be important that we understand that we’ve got to go do it ourselves. We’ve got resources. Obviously, my bosses provide the resources. But, you know what? But this team is built to understand that it’s going to be a lot of hard work and that if you just keep your nose to the grindstone and you just keep showing up that we’re going to coach them. They’ve been taking the coaching. This is their team and we work for them and I know that this team will show up. We got one more game and we’ll keep going back to that because it’s going to be important that we finish this thing the right way for those seniors that have really left their legacy already.”
On the leadership within the program
“It’s always good to hope that they, that everybody’s coming back. Obviously we were sending some guys away, but the player-led culture that we’ve talked about, it’s been real. I mean, I don’t come up here and BS you guys and tell you that it’s something that it isn’t. And I think it’s a byproduct of again the group of guys that made a decision to come here based on a vision that we were selling. You look at this senior class, they were part of that pandemic team, true freshmen, guys like Tarheeb [Still] and Ruben Hyppolite that made a decision to come here before we showed the on the field progress. When you bring kids in like that have no problem with understanding that it’s going to take a lot of work. And that’s kind of how this team is built. That’s kind of the DNA of this group. And like I said, I have no doubt that they’ll continue to give us all of their efforts and all of their concentration for one more opportunity this week on the road. But it starts with that locker room, and I’m proud of them. Again, there is no moral victory. We lost the game, but I do have to give credit to the way this senior group has provided just so much leadership. As a head coach, you get credit for it. But you know what, this is all player led and it’s the type of players we’ve brought in.”