- The Washington Times
Thursday, October 13, 2022

Maryland tries to regroup as it heads on the road, facing an Indiana state school for the second-straight game. Here’s this week’s “Terps Top Three” as the Terrapins visit the Hoosiers:

Staff shakeup: Both programs enter Saturday’s game (3:30 p.m., ESPN2) off a loss, but the Hoosiers are struggling mightily in coach Tom Allen’s fifth season.

After needing overtime to outlast Western Kentucky by a field goal Sept. 17, the Hoosiers have lost their last three games by an average of 18 points.

A 31-10 loss to Michigan last week was the last straw for sixth-year offensive line coach Darren Hiller, who was replaced by Allen with Rod Carey. In a game that was tied at 10 at halftime, Indiana only managed 19 yards rushing on 25 attempts and allowed seven sacks against the Wolverines.

Carey, a former Indiana offensive lineman, and Maryland coach Mike Locksley know each other well from the college football coaching fraternity. Carey had stints leading Northern Illinois and Temple over the last decade before coming back to Indiana this year.

His work is cut out for him facing a Maryland defense that held Purdue running backs to 38 yards on 22 carries and only 13 rushing yards overall thanks to five sacks.

Analyze this: Locksley’s answer this week to a question about how his program uses analytics provided an illuminating look into what goes into his decision-making process in key situations.

“We’ve worked with a company, CAI [Championship Analytics] that I actually introduced down to Alabama when I was in an off-the-field role,” Locksley said, “that runs, as they say, the same simulations of our game and give us this big book.”

Maryland coordinator of football operations Matt Konapelsky stands with Locksley during games with that book, advising the coach of what the data and numbers suggest he should do. One of those “suggestion vs. decision” intersections came on the third play of the fourth quarter at the Purdue 34.

“It was a fourth-and-3 situation, and analytics said, ‘Go for it. Go for it,’” Locksley said. “I’ve got a good kicker. And I used that human element part of it.”

Eastern Michigan transfer Chad Ryland, who’s been an upgrade in the kicking game for Maryland, missed the 52-yard attempt wide left. It was only his second miss of the season, both coming from 50 yards or greater.

“They sent me a little note saying, ‘Hey, probably should have went for it,’ because the percentage of making that kick versus the percentage of converting fourth-and-3, it was higher to the fourth-and-3 conversion,” Locksley said. “But you have to use the human element in-game decision-making.”

Whether Maryland would have converted the fourth down is, of course, unknown. The Terrapins are 8-of-11 (72.7%) this season when going for it on fourth down. Ryland connected at an 88.8% clip before the miss. But Locksley is the one that is ultimately accountable for the choice, regardless of data.

“It’s hard to fire a computer or a group,” Locksley said, “so I would imagine it’s solely on me, the decisions that we make.”

Dirty laundry: Through six games, the Terrapins are the most-penalized team in the Big Ten — 50 flags in all, costing them an average of 71.3 yards per game. Maryland accumulated 88 in 13 games last season, including the Pinstripe Bowl, which was second-worst in the conference. 

Assuming another bowl appearance, they’re on a pace of more than 100 flags this season. It’s a regression in penalties even with a more seasoned, developed roster in 2022. 

The mistakes were staunched momentarily — a lone 5-yarder was the only accepted infraction at Michigan. But Maryland’s reverted to an unfortunate form, committing nine in each of the last two weeks. In a Purdue loss full of missed opportunities, an ineligible man downfield penalty took a game-tying two-point conversion off the scoreboard in the final minute.

Locksley was the most animated about flags after his team committed 15 of them in a tight home win against Southern Methodist, saying he would discipline his team like kids who’ve acted out of character. It worked, leading to the single-flag performance against Michigan. Perhaps another of those sessions is in order, especially with a favorable three games coming up for the Terrapins over the next four weeks.

• George Gerbo can be reached at ggerbo@washingtontimes.com.

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