Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa Padding His Historic Maryland Career

Maryland will look to move to 5-1 for the first time since 2013, its last season in the ACC, when they host Purdue on Saturday for a 12 PM kickoff. The Terps will do so behind a quarterback who continues to ascend in the program record book.

In the 27-13 win over Michigan State, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa tied Scott Milanovich for the program record by recording his tenth career 300-yard game, while his 314 passing yards also passed Boomer Esiason for third on Maryland’s career passing list. Taulia did so by becoming the fastest player in program history to reach the 6,000-yard mark and now sits within striking distance of capturing even more career records. With seven games remaining, Taulia needs 1,014 passing yards, 116 completions and eight touchdowns to hold the career passing touchdowns, completions and yards record.

Head coach Mike Locksley has stuck behind his starting quarterback all offseason, even adding at Big Ten media day “I don’t think there’s a more underrated player in the country than Taulia Tagovailoa and I’ll continue to say it, as he’s a guy that has really been the catalyst to making us go on offense.” For a quarterback who is averaging just over 283 yards through the air and doing so at a 70.5% completion, Taulia is proving Locksley’s point.

Much has been made about Maryland’s deep receiver room with Jeshaun Jones and Rakim Jarrett leading the unit through the first half of the season, but Taulia’s success has come by distributing the ball across the field. With Rakim Jarrett leading the team with 20 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns, Taulia has completed at least one pass to 13 different receivers against Charlotte, connected with ten different receivers twice and has completed a pass to at least eight different receivers in every game this season. It helps that the running game has not only created a balanced offense but have shown the ability to break out of the backfield to use their hands.

Running back Antwain Littleton added 27 receiving yards on three catches to his first career 100-yard rushing game, helping Maryland control Michigan State. “With a big body guy like that, he wears down defenses and eventually, you know, something’s gonna pop. He brings something to the team in the passing game, caught a few balls, and then also is really improved in his pass protection,” Locksley said of Littleton’s performance.

This weekend, though, Taulia and the Maryland offense will go head-to-head against one of the Big Ten’s best in Purdue and quarterback Aidan O’Connell. The sixth-year quarterback is fresh off leading the Boilermakers to a 20-10 road upset against Minnesota, handing the Gophers and head coach PJ Fleck its first loss of the season. O’Connell also leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency (134.5) as he’s up to 1,199 yards and eight touchdowns to three interceptions with a 64.9% completion percentage, but he’s got company.

Taulia enters this weekend 20th in the nation in passing yards (1416) and 27th in passing efficiency while leading Maryland to the second-highest passing offense in the Big Ten. Granted, Taulia is already up to four interceptions this season, but Locksley cautioned that statistic.

“I’ll put an asterisk by the three turnovers a week ago. I’ll put an asterisk by that, but obviously taking care of the football is priority number one for us,” Locksley added. Taulia did so in a game that was an emotional whirlwind in the days leading up to kickoff. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Taulia’s older brother, suffered his second concussion within one week and was carted off the field during Miami’s 27-15 loss to the Bengals on Thursday night. It wasn’t until Friday afternoon when Taulia settled into his pregame routine after speaking with Tua.

“I think the one thing that was able to settle him down was, you know, he was finally able to get a FaceTime with Tua and Tua basically said, ‘hey, I’m fine man, go play. I’m looking forward to seeing you go play and win a game.’ So, right after dinner [Friday] night was the first time in probably 24 hours that I saw his energy,” Locksley said following Saturday’s win.

“Our team takes on the personality of the head coach and the quarterback, and everybody was really kind of on pins and needles watching him as he worked through it Friday, which was a big mental day for us. And we all knew that, you know, he was not necessarily all the way there, but I thought once he had the conversation and saw that his brother was okay, thank God for FaceTime because Tua was obviously able to get him settled down. He was able to compartmentalize today and just really focus on doing his job and I thought the kid showed up and played well.”

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