Miscues, Stagnant Offense Plagues Maryland Football in Loss to Purdue

Maryland dropped its first home game of the 2022 season after Purdue escaped College Park with a 31-29 win, pushing Maryland to 4-2 (1-2) midway through the season.

“This was going to be one of those type of games, a 60-minute game and [Purdue] did the things necessary to win,” Locksley said after the game. Maryland would open up firing on all cylinders after punching in a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, giving Maryland six scores on all six opening drives to open the season. A big catch and run from wide receiver Dontay Demus helped make the scoring drive possible as the senior extended his catch streak to 33 games, while quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa leaned on his legs for a nine-yard rushing touchdown to give Maryland its first lead of the day.


Purdue would respond with a 39-yard field goal before taking the lead in the opening minute of the second quarter, but Maryland would bounce right back thanks to a 46-yard field goal from Chad Ryland. After Purdue retook the lead with roughly six minutes to go in the first half, Maryland’s offense found renewed life after quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa found tight end Corey Dyches for a 68-yard touchdown catch that featured nearly 15 yards of dragging the Purdue defender. Not only did the score ignite the Maryland faithful with a tie game heading into the locker room, but Taulia’s deep ball vaulted him into a tie for second all-time in career passing touchdowns.

Tagovailoa went into the halftime break with 169 yards passing, a touchdown and an interception, but the second half would be highlighted by big plays from Maryland’s defense.

While Maryland’s defense struggled to generate takeaways through nonconference play, Maryland’s defense was able to change that against Purdue on Saturday. Durell Nchami has been quiet thus far this year, but exploded for a big game after registering four tackles and three tackles for loss. The former Paint Branch star registered a pair of sacks on the day, but his second sack in the opening minutes of the third quarter reversed the game’s momentum with a strip sack fumble recovered by defensive lineman Austin Fontaine to give Maryland the ball at its own 39.

“We just got to keep going because coach [Brian] Williams always preaches at practice always strip out the ball, get takeaways because our goal is three takeaways per game and we got that today,” outside linebacker Durell Nchami said following the loss. “We’ve got to keep going and get better every week.” Maryland’s defense also generated a season-high five sacks despite the loss and saw guys like Christian Teague and Taisze Johnson play key snaps. “Our defense did a great job of getting [Purdue] into those third and longs. We dropped some coverage to take away some of the throwing lanes which allowed us to get our dime rabbit group, which that group is put on the field to rush the passer and it was great [Durell] Nchami and Jaishawn Barham is one of those guys that has some natural pass rush ability. We implemented him that package and made some plays for us when we needed them.”

Maryland’s offense was stopped short on fourth down near midfield, though, and Purdue would take over but again, it would be Maryland’s defense that loomed large as cornerback Jakorian Bennett came away with an interception just outside of the redzone. As the two teams traded empty possessions through the second half, Maryland’s third turnover came in the final minute of the third quarter after freshman linebacker stripped running back Tyrone Tracy on Purdue’s half of the field, giving Maryland’s offense a scoring opportunity heading into the final stanza. This time, Maryland was able to turn it into points after Hemby capped off the Terps 12-play, 69-yard drive with an 11-yard screen play to the endzone. The Terps took the lead 23-17, but a no-call on the extra point meant that the game remained a six-point contest. Replay showed that Purdue was offside which impacted the attempt, but head coach Mike Locksley was reserved when asked about the reason given.

“I’ll say this–the blocked extra point had a major impact on the game,” head coach Mike Locksley said afterward. “It’s a one score game, it takes us into overtime. It adjusts and changes how they play the game. The illegal man down the field had no impact on the touchdown, so I’ll just leave it at that.”

Purdue would respond once more, though, as O’Connell later found Durham wide open to create a big gain and pin Maryland’s defense inside its own five yard line. Purdue would find the endzone with 80 seconds remaining, giving Maryland one final chance to tie the game. Despite the inconsistency from Maryland’s offense, the execution gave them a last-ditch chance to reclaim control.

Taulia found Roman Hemby for a quick eight yard pickup before finding Dyches to get to midfield. After Dontay Demus drew a pass interference to push Maryland to the Purdue 34, another pass to Hemby pushed Maryland into the endzone before Taulia found Dyches for his second touchdown of the day on an 18-yard reception. But after missing the extra point, the game would come down to a two-point conversion attempt. On the first attempt, Taulia found a wide-open receiver in the back of the endzone but was called back due to a penalty. On the next play, an incompletion just over the hands of wide receiver Jeshaun Jones sealed the game as Purdue recovered the ensuing onside kick.

Despite the back-and-forth contest, Maryland’s self-inflicted wounds plagued its chances of pulling off the win. It wasn’t a repeat of the SMU game, but Maryland’s nine penalties for 75 yards came at inopportune times as the offensive line was responsible for five penalties. Maryland also finished 2-of-11 on 3rd downs where the offense needed more than four yards to pick up the first down. “When we’re not efficient on 1st-and-10, we had a missed block on the counter, we had an incomplete pass where we maybe missed the read or the receiver didn’t create separation. It wasn’t as if they did things to stop us. I always say that and it’s not disrespect to our opponent, but really comes down to our execution.”

Up next, Maryland will travel to Indiana next weekend for a 3:30 PM kickoff on ESPN2.

Related Links

Instant reactions: Maryland 29, Purdue 31

Headlines: Maryland adds specialist, sleeper pick

The List: local crew of talent heads to College Park (+)