It’s on your mark, get set, and go for Maryland as the Terrapins enter what coach Mike Locksley calls a ‘four-week sprint’ to finish the regular season — a race that will start with Taulia Tagovailoa back under center.
“He’s playing Saturday,” Locksley said simply to reporters Tuesday.
The quarterback’s return was expected following Maryland’s bye. It will be Tagovailoa’s first game action in three weeks after leaving a win at Indiana with a right knee injury.
“I’m ready,” Tagovailoa said, talking publicly for the first time since the injury. “I had a good time recovering, rehab, and stuff like that. I feel good. I’m just ready to get back on the field with my brothers.”
There were some tense moments for Tagovailoa as he was carted off the field Oct. 15, but those worries eased as his diagnosis of a reaggravated MCL wasn’t as dire as it could have been.
“When it happened, I mean, I was just in pain,” Tagovailoa said. “So the biggest thing I was hoping, I’ll probably wrap it up and come back out or something like that … I was nervous. I was hoping it wasn’t something more serious, but thank God it isn’t.”
With QB1 back leading the offense, the Terrapins (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten), to a man, know what they’re capable of in the final month of the regular season.
“We loved the energy of practice (Monday),” tight end Corey Dyches said. “Everybody’s well rested, got their brains off things, and now we’re back to football. So, the bye week helped, and we’re gonna come back fresh and ready to play.”
Safety Beau Brade, echoing his head coach, put it more succinctly and alliteratively.
“You get remembered in November, really,” Brade said, “especially the next couple games we’re playing.”
The final march begins in Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday with only the fourth game ever against the Badgers (4-4, 2-3), who are also coming off a bye.
Maryland’s lost all three previous meetings — the last one five years ago — and Wisconsin has been able to slightly reinvent itself following the firing of coach Paul Chryst on Oct. 2
“The last three games, they look a little differently than they had,” Locksley said. “And they’re scoring points.”
Wisconsin has done it to the tune of 42, 28, and 35 on the scoreboard and a 2-1 record in those games under interim coach Jim Leonhard.
“Well, they always, of course, love to run the ball in Wisconsin since they started,” Brade said. “They’re not having the season that they thought they’d have or expected to have. But the last three games, they’ve really improved.”
Braelon Allen is a large part of that success, the current in a long line of outstanding Badgers running backs over the years. The sophomore averages 5.8 yards per carry and has rushed for more than 100 yards in five of Wisconsin’s eight games. With 130 more against the Terrapins, he’ll hit 1,000 for the second straight season.
Maryland counters with the third-best offense in the Big Ten, averaging 34.1 points per game and 455 yards per game. Wisconsin’s defense will be up to the challenge: Its 14 interceptions are tied for second-most in the nation, with Brade calling their safety group the best Maryland’s played so far.
“They run a scheme that is quite different,” Locksley said. “It’s a pressure package, but it’s kind of the safe pressures — we call it simulated pressures — where it looks like a lot of people are coming and then they do a great job of mixing it up. So, we’ve got to be really sharp upfront with our calls and our quarterback getting everybody on the same page.”
• George Gerbo can be reached at email@example.com.
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