Three up, three down: Maryland vs. Michigan State

On Saturday, Maryland cruised to a 31-9 victory over the struggling Michigan St. Spartans. It brings the Terrapins to a familiar 4-0 record while also recording their first Big Ten win. Introducing a new series called “three up, three down” where look at the good and bad from Saturday.

Three Up 

QB Taulia Tagovailoa

Tagovailoa built on his strong game against Virginia last week as he completed 21-of-36 passes for 223 yards and four total touchdowns, including three through the air. It was not his prettiest game, but Tagovailoa was rolling early. Credit to the offensive line that gave him a mostly clean pocket all day. When he has that clean pocket he is one of the more clinical quarterbacks in the country as he picked apart the Spartans defense on the first few drives. He was 17 of 23 for 196 yards in a clean pocket. He found many different receivers along the way including Kaden Prather, Octavian Smith, Tai Felton, and even Tyrese Chambers. Chambers got on the board off a beautifully placed ball by Tagovailoa on a corner route to make it 14-0 at the time. The 2nd half was a bit of a struggle for Tagovailoa as the pocket was a bit messier; however, he evaded pressure very well which led to no sacks being allowed. Under pressure, he was 4 for 13 for 27 yards while on his redzone interception, he even made a nice move to avoid a sack, but you would still like to see a better decision there. It is good to see Tagovailoa playing with confidence, while having a four-touchdown game against a Big Ten opponent on the road is going to instill that same confidence into the fans. The passing attack saw eleven different players catch at least one pass with Kaden Prather, Tai Felton and Octavian Smith Jr. all finishing with at least three receptions, but an overall more clean game from the Terps’ veteran quarterback.

SAF Beau Brade

Brade returned to the Terrapins lineup with a very solid performance in the secondary. It started on the first Spartans drive when Spartans quarterback, Noah Kim, stepped back and threw a dig route but Brade jumped the route for the interception. It was a beautifully read play by Brade in his first series back off injury. Brade also led the team in tackles with 6 and had 4 assists. Seeing a safety be your leading tackler is never the best sign but Brade is constantly leading that category, so it has become a norm. He also had a good pass breakup on the Spartans’ touchdown drive and was overall solid while most of the secondary was average at best. It did look like he got beat on the lone Spartans touchdown but that was more about the play call than Brade being outright beat. He wasn’t set up for success with a man coverage call where he is eight yards away from his man to start. Overall, a solid return game from Brade as it is clear that he is a key cog in the defense.

LB Caleb Wheatland

Wheatland made the most of his opportunity in Saturday’s win. He recorded 28 snaps and took on a different role as Brian Williams dialed up some blitzes for him from the linebacking position. He was able to get home twice and finished with 1.5 sacks. And had four total tackles. Wheatland  becoming a factor in the linebacking rotation would be huge for the Terrapins’ defense as they have been looking for more depth at the position. Wheatland graded as Maryland’s best pass rusher, per PFF, and played with speed all day to make big plays to keep the Spartans’ offense stagnant.

Three Down

RB Roman Hemby

The run game was the biggest red flag for Maryland in Saturday’s win. Hemby could not get anything going as he carried the ball 10 times for 12 yards. An uncharacteristically bad day for Hemby as head coach Mike Locksley, said postgame that he had been dealing with an injury that limited him in practice throughout the week. It was not a serious enough injury to keep him from getting the most opportunity in the running back room, but still, the big plays on the ground were absent. The offensive line did not help matters as all six that played did not have outstanding run block grades per PFF. Still, you are looking for Hemby to be a difference maker and one of the best running backs the Big Ten has to offer and on Saturday, the Terps had to turn elsewhere. Colby McDonald broke off the biggest rush of the day, a 25-yard run in the closing minutes of the first quarter, but if Maryland’s offense really wants to take it to the next level they are going to have to need Hemby and Tagovailoa play well in unison.

Jack Howes

Howes finished 1-of-3 on his field goals on Saturday leaving six points on the board. Howes missed a 40-yarder in the 3rd quarter and missed a 29-yard chip shot in garbage time, yet drilled a 48-yard field goal in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Although these missed field goals were not the difference in the game, Howes has to be making 29-yarders. Terrapins fans may have been spoiled with Chad Ryland last season but Howes has to at least make the simple ones. Knowing you have three points as soon as you cross a certain yard line is always good to know. Howes has not reached that level yet and hopefully his confidence does not wear thin as he is going to be attempting some big kicks in the coming weeks. Heading into week five, Howes is 4-of-8 on the season with a 48-yard long.

The Secondary

Maryland’s secondary has had both its good and bad moments through the first month of the season, a description that would fit with their performance against the Spartans on Saturday. Michigan State had only 264 yards passing and Maryland had three interceptions, but something is still missing for me as the Spartans amassed seven plays picking up at least 15 yards through the air. Ja’Quan Sheppard and Tarheeb Still are still allowing larger chunk plays. Sheppard committed a bad defensive pass interference in the red zone that comes with his physical play. The rotational players have not been too impressive either as Gavin Gibson was targeted in his limited snaps and Glen Miller also allowed some plays to be made. They weren’t horrendous by any means, but I am officially worried about the unit as the Terps prepare to take on the likes of Ohio St. in two weeks. Expectations were high coming in; the turnovers have helped but the unit has to be better as a whole.

While Maryland’s passing offense enters week five second in the Big Ten, the passing defense sits in the middle of the pack in Big Ten play. The redzone takeaways that preserved Maryland’s week three runaway win flashed again on Saturday with Still coming down with an interception, a big reason why Maryland now sits tied for second in takeaways (11) and eleventh nationally in scoring defense (12.25), but the seldom yet costly miscommunciations along the backline leave room for improvement for the secondary.

The good news? Maryland will have a chance to rebound against an Indiana offense that sits in the bottom three in the Big Ten in scoring offense (21.8), total offense (337.5) and rushing offense (108.8).

Related Links

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Maryland football’s snap counts, PFF grades vs. Michigan State

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Young Terps: Maryland cruises by Michigan State, 31-9, in Big Ten opener