COLLEGE PARK —Many were expecting an offensive tit-for-tat with some of the biggest playmakers in the Big Ten taking the SECU Stadium turf Saturday afternoon. Indeed, some of them did show up for both Maryland and Purdue.
But the playmaking on this day overwhelmingly belonged to the defense.
Freshman linebacker Jaishawn Barham tallied two sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery, leading a disruptive Terrapins defense that forced three straight turnovers on Purdue drives in the second half. But Maryland generated no points from any of them, and a blocked extra point in the fourth quarter was the difference in a 31-29 loss.
“To have three turnovers there [in] three back-to-back-to-back drives where they gave us opportunities and we squandered them,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley said, “to not come away with points, you don’t get those type of opportunities without them coming back to bite you in the butt.”
Maryland (4-2, 1-2) had some offensive strikes, including a sensational individual effort by tight end Corey Dyches on a 68-yard touchdown near halftime. But the Terrapins couldn’t establish anything in the run game — which had been an early season hallmark — thanks to Purdue collapsing well on interior holes at the line of scrimmage. Maryland only managed 72 yards on 25 carries.
Add in a handful of offensive line penalties and a couple of under-thrown balls by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, and it was hard for Maryland to establish much in the way of consistency. He finished 26-of-38, with 315 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while moving into second place all-time in passing yards in school history.
“When we’re first-and-10 and we get a one yard gain or a penalty and now it’s second-and-11, we’re not a very good offense in those situations, and it affects everything,” Locksley said. “We’ve got to be better.”
Maryland did get it going late with screen passes to running back Roman Hemby, one of them an 11-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. But kicker Chad Ryland’s extra point was blocked following the score. Safety Cam Allen got his hand on it, even though replays showed him getting a head start pre-snap in the neutral zone. He was not flagged for it.
Purdue (4-2, 2-1) answered with a 10-play drive, culminating in an Aidan O’Connell 11-yard touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Payne Durham in the middle of the end zone to put the Boilermakers up 31-23.
Maryland put together an incredible, last-gasp score with less than a minute to go. Tagovailoa led the Terrapins 68 yards in 37 seconds, finding Dyches again for his second touchdown.
They appeared to tie the game with a two-point conversion catch in the back of the end zone by Rakim Jarrett, but it was called back due to right tackle DJ Glaze being too far downfield on the play. Maryland’s next try from the 7-yard line was incomplete, as Tagovailoa overthrew Hemby at the back of the end zone.
“I’ll say this: The blocked extra point had a major impact on the game,” Locksley said. “It’s a one score game, it takes us into overtime, it adjusts and changes how they play the game.”
“The illegal man downfield had no impact on the touchdown. So, I’ll just leave it at that.”
The fourth-quarter theatrics helped to jolt to life the 36,000 here on a brisk, partly sunny day. But the game was lost not at the end but by Maryland being unable to take advantage of generating all of those Purdue turnovers, to go along with a 5-sack afternoon by the defense.
“This week at practice, the whole stress was getting turnovers,” defensive end Durell Nchami said. “We got three today, and we just got to keep stressing that.”
Barham was the leader of that unit. The freshman linebacker from Baltimore has continued to impress his coaches and teammates week by week, who aren’t surprised by the St. Frances Academy product’s success.
“He‘s a grown man out there,” Nchami said of Barham. “He‘s definitely gonna be one of the greats here. He needs to keep going, just stay on course here. Because he keeps doing that, something great is gonna happen.”
Maryland’s first scoring drive was set up by a Dontay Demus 35-yard reception to put the Terrapins in Boilermaker territory. Four plays later, Tagovailoa used a read-option to perfection, jogging untouched to his right 9 yards into the end zone and a 7-0 lead.
A missed opportunity sequence on Maryland’s second drive after a Purdue field goal led to the Boilermakers’ first touchdown. Tagovailoa tried to find Shaleak Knotts on a 50-yard deep ball with plenty of daylight ahead of him, but Knotts couldn’t reel it in. Two plays later, Tagovailoa was intercepted by Cory Trice.
Cornerback Jakorian Bennett nearly had an interception of his own on the ensuing Boilermaker drive, but it deflected off of him into the hands of receiver Mershawn Rice, who took it inside the Maryland 10 for first-and-goal.
An illegal substitution penalty gave Purdue a free play on third down, and they capitalized with a Dylan Downing 1-yard touchdown run and their first lead at 10-7 early in the second quarter.
Another untimely Maryland penalty would set up Purdue’s next touchdown. Linebacker Ahmad McCullough hit O’Connell late as he was sliding down after a run, giving Purdue half the distance and the ball in the red zone.
Three plays later, O’Connell delivered a beautiful left corner fade to Rice for a 4-yard touchdown to put Purdue back up, 17-10. He nearly matched Tagovailoa statistically — like he has most of the past two seasons — finishing 30-of-41, with 360 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
That’s when Maryland answered with Dyches’ first two-minute drill touchdowns. The tight end caught a rainbow pass from Tagovailoa with no one in sight of him at the Purdue 20, and took cornerback Cory Trice along for a ride the final 15 yards as he dove into the end zone to tie the game.
The Terrapins wouldn’t score again for 23 minutes until the final quarter flourish. In that interim, Tagovailoa struggled to find a rhythm, perhaps due to a twist in the Boilermakers’ scheme.
“I mean, they kind of switched-up their defense. We came into the game knowing that was gonna get man [coverage], but I think they only played man like the first two snaps of the game, and probably the first snap of the second half,” Tagovailoa said “After that, there was just drop coverage [and] zone.”
Locksley emphasized that everyone in his locker room “felt this was one we let slip away.” A Terrapins team that was pointed toward potentially being ranked for the first time in years with a manageable schedule in front of them will now regroup and play a road game for the first time in three weeks, next Saturday at Indiana.
• George Gerbo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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