Unit Grades: Evaluating Maryland’s Performance vs. Wisconsin

Maryland fell flat in Madison on Saturday as Wisconsin handily walked away with a 23-10 win in a lackluster game. After a historically-poor showing from Maryland’s offense, we break down how each unit fared against the Badgers.

Quarterbacks: F

77 passing yards. That was all Maryland could muster as the offense failed to reach 100 passing yards for the first time in nearly four years. Yes, weather conditions altered Maryland’s efficiency through the air but the opportunities were there. Billy Edwards made the surprise entrance on the first play of the game in what was later revealed to be a visor change by Taulia, but the veteran quarterback returned on the following play in what would be his worst performance since his debut back in 2020. Taulia struggled getting rid of the ball and finding an open receiver within Wisconsin’s secondary, contributing to the Badgers coming down with five sacks on the day including a pair of deflating third down sacks. While drops played a big hand in the lack of success through the air, Taulia struggled to drop a few attempts over Wisconsin’s linebackers on a handful of throws and finished just 6-of-15 on throws more than five yards downfield. While escaping the pocket in the fourth quarter, Taulia also missed the linebacker dropping in coverage in the second half which led to his seventh interception of the season and proved to be the lone turnover of the day.

Running Backs: C-

The Terps’ run game struggled to find its footing after the unit combined for 112 yards on 41 carries, yielding an average of 2.7 yards per carry. Locksley cited the poor pass protection from Maryland’s running backs as the Badgers were able to consistently penetrate the line of scrimmage, but even with the ball in their hands, the run game struggled to produce the big plays that fans had become accustomed to seeing. Hemby broke off 15-yard runs in the second and third quarters while Taulia’s keeper on the Terps’ second-half opening drive almost broke into Wisconsin territory, but still, Wisconsin did well clogging the holes to limit the lack of explosiveness on the ground, magnifying Maryland’s struggles through the air on a wet day. Hemby led the way with 66 yards on 16 carries, Ramon Brown drew nine carries for 27 yards while Antwain Littleton punched in eight yards on three carries on a day that didn’t feature Colby McDonald. On a day that was expected to be a wet day, the run game failed to alleviate the strain on the passing game in a disappointing outing.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: F

For a unit that’s littered with NFL talent, drops have become a glaring issue for this unit. Again, it’s important to note the conditions of Saturday’s contest but a pair of third-down drops from Rakim Jarrett and a catchable ball through the hands of Jacob Copeland on 4th-and-2 are inexcusable. CJ Dippre, Jeshaun Jones and Tai Felton led the team with two catches while Dippre finished with a team-high 36 receiving yards, while Demus, Jarrett, and Dyches combined for just 17 yards. While Taulia draws criticism for his performance, the receivers struggled just as much if not more. Expectations are magnified heading into Penn State and it won’t be any easier against a secondary that features Joey Porter Jr. and Ji’Ayir Brown. Jarrett did exit the game early due to a lower leg injury as his status is cloudy early in the week, but the receiver room has the talent to fill the void if Jarrett is sidelined next weekend. 

Offensive Line: D

It was expected that linebacker Nick Herbig would be a thorn in Maryland’s side and he did exactly that, finishing with three sacks and was one of five players to register at least 0.5 tackles for loss. The unit was without Mason Lunsford (concussion protocol) which vaulted Coltin Deery into his second career start at center, shifting Johari Branch to right guard for the second consecutive week. Deery struggled with his snaps with Taulia in shotgun, altering the timing on a handful of plays as the true freshman develops into the future anchor of the line, but the unit struggled to pick up the Badgers’ stunt blitzes throughout the game and was met with unblocked blitzers off the edge.

Defensive Line: D+

Maryland saw a heavy dose of Henry Chibueze, ‘Tank’ Booker and Tommy Akingbesote on Saturday with Mosiah Nasili-Kite playing just seven snaps. The unit did produce three sacks on the day with Greg China-Rose finishing with a team-high two sacks, but struggled to stop the run after allowing over 200 yards for the second consecutive game. While Maryland improved its tackling throughout the course of the game, the front seven had a tough time slowing Allen down at the line of scrimmage with the Badgers controlling the line of scrimmage en route to producing two 100-yard rushers on the day.  Booker led the unit with 39 snaps and finished second on the team with six tackles, Akingbesote logged his second sack of the season while fans saw glimpses of reserve lineman Riyad Wilmot in the loss. The defensive line isn’t alone when dissecting why the Badgers were so consistently successful running the ball, but the lack of pressure met at the line of scrimmage from the front seven helped the Badgers’ backs bounce outside to pick up chunk plays.

Linebackers: C-

Maryland’s struggle to contain the edge loomed large on a handful of plays, while running back Braelon Allen was able to tack on additional yards after contact in the second level. The linebackers benefitted from Ruben Hyppolite, Jaishawn Barham and VanDarius Cowan all returning as reported last week, with Hyppolite flashing his quick closing speed to start off the game. Barham was subject to a personal foul call that extended Wisconsin’s drive in the second half, but the linebackers as a whole struggled to penetrate through Wisconsin’s pressure. Jet sweeps proved to be the difference on a pair of runs as the Badgers took advantage of the Terps’ linebackers, shifting the field position and setting up a pair of eventual scoring drives.

Secondary: B-

Conditions limited Wisconsin’s efficiency through the air, though Graham Mertz didn’t necessarily pose the same threat that Taulia did entering Saturday. Like Taulia, Mertz finished with 77 passing yards on five completions to three different receivers and tested the Terps’ secondary on a handful of deep throws. A pair of pass interference penalties helped extend a pair of Badgers’ drives, but Maryland was able to largely contain the Badgers vertical attack and allowed only two plays of over 20 yards through the air. The coverage did allow a disappointing reception on 3rd-and-16 in the second half, while one red flag play in the first half was Jakorian Bennett’s last-ditch efforts on Isaac Guerendo’s 89-yard run.

Special Teams: B

Hemby finished with 35 kick return yards while Guerendo tallied 32 against Maryland’s special teams, but Maryland’s most impressive performance may have come from Colton Spangler. The newly-minted scholarship punter finished with 383 yards on eight punts, good for 47.9 yards per punt, while logging a pair of punts inside the 20 and a pair of 50-plus yard punts. Chad Rylan finished a perfect 1-for-1 on the day after drilling a 39-yard field goal despite conditions, while Tarheeb Still registered 26 yards on four punt returns.

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