Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa looked like a different player Friday night in his home debut. He bore no resemblance to the rattled sophomore who struggled last week in the Terps’ opener, instead keeping his composure and proving, in a thrilling 45-44 win over Minnesota, he is more than just the younger brother of Tua.
Tagovailoa led a stunning fourth-quarter rally, bringing the Terps back from a 17-point deficit to force overtime. In the extra period, his two-yard run (and Joseph Petrino’s kick) gave Maryland a seven-point lead. The Golden Gophers scored on their first overtime possession, but Brock Walker’s extra point floated wide right at Capital One Field, and the Terps had their first win — and Tagovailoa’s first as the team’s starting quarterback.
“We showed a lot of grit, a lot of fight and a lot of perseverance to come off a loss like that and for our team to just continue to fight,” Tagovailoa said. “… It just shows the type of team we have. Hopefully we can build on this.”
Tagovailoa played with poise and precision in the game’s decisive moment. He opened the Terps’ overtime drive with a 12-yard pass to Jeshaun Jones, and he closed it with the scoring run, the fifth touchdown he accounted for on the evening.
Tagovailoa completed 26 of 35 passes for 394 yards with three touchdowns. He also ran eight times for 59 yards and two scores. He had an interception in the second quarter on a tipped ball but navigated pressure with ease throughout the night, playing from behind for all but the final minutes of the second half.
“Last week was more of a surprise for us than what we saw this week,” Maryland Coach Michael Locksley said, “because these are the same type of plays and throws and energy he has brought to the table, which is why he earned the position. It was great to see him bounce back.”
The Terps’ defense struggled through most of the game, but the unit mustered a pair of third-down stops to give the team a chance late. After Maryland fell behind 38-21, senior running back Jake Funk (a career-high 221 rushing yards) tied the game with a 19-yard run with 3:38 remaining. But again the defense stopped Minnesota on the Gophers’ final drive to force overtime.
“Our defense kept banging away,” Locksley said. "They kept fighting. They kept playing hard. Rotated a bunch of guys in there. We got some stops when we needed them most there late in the game. I thought the energy level changed as they continued to have a little success late in the game with getting off the field.”
The game marked the first time in Maryland history that the team had a 300-yard passer and a 200-yard rusher in the same game.
Tagovailoa, intercepted three times in his debut last week at Northwestern, was sharp from the start. Early in the game, he evaded two defenders and scored on a 39-yard run. Later, he threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Jones as Maryland built a 21-7 first-quarter lead.
“He’s so smart in the pocket,” Funk said. “He does a great job identifying pressures. He a game manager, along with him just balling out in the passing game.”
Minnesota, however, rallied, helped when a screen pass from Tagovailoa was tipped by a defender before landing in the hands of defensive lineman DeAngelo Carter. The Gophers promptly scored, narrowing the Terps’ early lead and beginning Minnesota’s stretch of 31 consecutive points.
Locksley previously called Tagovailoa’s performance in Evanston a case of “first-start jitters,” and when Tagovailoa committed the turnover against Minnesota, he did not let his performance dip. The Terps, who were 20-point underdogs, still had to overcome costly mistakes. They finished the game with 10 penalties for 97 yards.
The Terps attempted a field goal just before halftime, which would have ended the extended scoreless run, but Petrino’s try bounced off the upright. Maryland turned the ball over twice, and the offensive line allowed a third-down sack for a loss of 16 yards when the Terps entered the red zone down by 10 points with about seven minutes left. But Petrino made a career-long 51-yard field goal to narrow Minnesota’s lead to 38-31.
Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan only attempted 15 passes, completing 10, including a 39-yard touchdown pass to Chris Autman-Bell. On that drive, Maryland pushed Minnesota into a tricky third-and-14 situation, but then defensive lineman Mosiah Nasil-Kite was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Two plays later, Autman-Bell’s acrobatic grab handed Minnesota a 35-21 lead.
Facing that 14-point deficit in the third quarter, Tagovailoa led Maryland through a 85-yard drive. But on first and goal from the 1-yard line, freshman running back Peny Boone fumbled into the end zone and Minnesota recovered the ball.
The Gophers continued to plow through Maryland’s defense, and Minnesota didn’t need Morgan to orchestrate a flashy performance. Mohamed Ibrahim, a Baltimore native and former Good Counsel standout, took care of that. He finished the game with 207 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Facing a strong offensive line, Maryland’s defense, which also struggled against Northwestern’s rushing attack, had no answer for Ibrahim. The Terps’ unit started the game well, forcing the Golden Gophers to punt after gaining only six yards, but the defense regressed until it found its footing late in the game.
In the second half, “we really stepped up,” defensive lineman Lawtez Rogers said. “And we took our role that we had each play seriously, and we didn’t take no for an answer. You could really see it.”
Tagovailoa’s performance helped negate the defensive trouble that persisted through much of the game. With the game on the line, he continued to impress, all the way until he dove into the end zone. Tagovailoa didn’t watch Minnesota’s missed extra-point attempt. He had his head down as he prayed. Once the sideline surged onto the field, Tagovailoa said he had to double check that the kicker had truly missed. Then he ran onto the field, celebrating with a swarm of teammates.
Tagovailoa left the stadium after midnight wearing a Miami Dolphins jersey, an homage to his brother who starts his first NFL game Sunday. But for the first time, Tagovailoa engineered a college football win of his own, proving that he too is a quarterback who can deliver in a game’s most critical moments.
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