Maryland’s passing attack was expected to be the catalyst against Nebraska, given the Huskers entered Saturday with the Big Ten’s second-best run defense, allowing just over 77 yards per contest. Considering Maryland’s rushing attack recorded minus-49 rushing yards against Penn State one week prior, optimism wasn’t high that the Terps could find success against a stout Husker front seven. Yet in the second half, it was Roman Hemby leading the rushing attack as the offense showed spurts of success.
After finishing the first half with zero yards on seven attempts, Maryland ended Saturday’s win with 101 yards on the ground, marking the first time in conference play and the second time this season that Maryland has rushed for over 100 yards in a half.
Of course, it wasn’t all pretty in the second half. Down 10-7 in the final minute of the third quarter, Maryland turned to Antwain Littleton on fourth down only to be stuffed for a one-yard loss, giving the Huskers both possession and momentum. With Maryland facing a 2nd-and-7 just outside the Nebraska 10 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, Hemby coughed up a fumble that squandered a scoring opportunity in what proved to be the third and final Maryland turnover of the day.
Yet still, Maryland didn’t shy away from the rushing attack through the final 30 minutes. Despite the fumble, Hemby was a big part of Maryland’s success as his 56 rushing yards in the fourth quarter, including 36 yards on the final drive, helped give the Terps’ offense a sense of balance that’s been missing for weeks. Colby McDonald added nine yards on a pair of carries, while Taulia Tagovailoa added a 22-yard run on the opening drive of the fourth quarter.
“The thing we needed to do was continue to pound at it and know that in the fourth quarter, the tempo wears them down a little bit,” head coach Mike Locksley said postgame. “You’re able to kind of wear them down. The run game got going, Roman made some big plays there, especially in that last drive when we wanted to use some clock while also moving the ball down the field.”
“Our [offensive] line did a really good job of handling the movement. We knew that it would be tough to run the ball so we had a gameplan where we were able to get the ball out of Lia’s hands early, knowing that with the tempo, if we got the game to the fourth quarter, hopefully the tempo will wear them down. And I thought at the end of it, our team got stronger, the run game got going when we most needed it.”
In the end, that balance proved vital as the Terps drove 75 yards to set Jack Howes up for the game-winning 24-yard field goal, lifting Maryland ahead in an ugly, yet overdue win. Howes, who knocked through both attempts in the win, said the game-sealing kick was his first game-winner since drilling a 40-yard field goal in the state semifinals as a senior.
“This feeling is unlike anything else in sports,” Howes said postgame. “I kind of missed it for a little bit but I’m glad it’s back.”
Maryland was also without Colton Spangler on Saturday as Brenden Segovia made his college debut as all three punts pinned the Huskers inside their own 11 on the first three drives of the game, while also recording a 50-yard punt.
“Our specialists showed up today, Jack Howes knocking in the winning field goal, hit an earlier field goal, and then Brenden Segovia coming in for our injured punter, placing two of them inside the ten. It’s exactly what we talk about when we say next man up and gotta give credit to the specialists for executing what we needed to execute.”
The late success from the rushing attack, coupled with the clutch performance from the two specialists, proved to be the difference as Maryland picked up their first win since September 30.
“To be able to be able to continue our season, our players were excited,” Locksley said in response to Maryland clinching bowl eligibility. “Like I said, they understand that there were some things that we can correct, but we’re going to enjoy this one because winning on the road is tough and it wasn’t pretty, but they found a way to get the job done and that’s what we’ll continue to focus on.”
Maryland’s rushing attack will look to retain its momentum heading into next week’s home finale versus Michigan, who allowed 164 yards on the ground in a win against Penn State on Saturday.
Kickoff against Michigan is set for 12 PM EST on FOX with the Big Noon Kickoff Show with the pregame show set at LaPlata Beach.