Taulia Tagovailoa entered SECU Stadium on Saturday morning as quarterback for a desperate team.
Maryland Football had lost two straight games for the first time all season and had just ten points in both games. An emotional team meeting forced the team to ask tough questions that needed quick answers as Ohio State’s No. 2 arrived in College Park.
For Tagovailoa, the fortnight was two of the worst performances of his young career, games in which he failed to get past 80 yards. He and coach Mike Locksley reviewed the team’s recent loss to Penn State to better understand these pressing questions.
They found answers as Tagovailoa threw for 293 yards and totaled three touchdowns. He piloted an offense that scored 30 points against a Buckeyes roster that came into the game and conceded fewer than 16 points per game.
Maryland lost, but with a regular-season finale against Rutgers and a bowl game ahead, the key takeaway remains that his quarterback and offense got back on track against an imposing opponent.
[Maryland football’s upset bid falls just short to No. 2 Ohio State, 43-30]
“We have heart and we as a team, we weren’t happy with our performances over the past two weeks…we felt like we didn’t give it our all, we didn’t fight,” Tagovailoa said. “As long as we play hard and do our best, we’ll see where the chips fall.”
Tagovailoa showed that heart in the fourth quarter. With his team 10 points behind and a fourth goal from the one-yard line, he vehemently waved to the touchline to keep the offense on the field.
It was a bold move by the quarterback. With less than ten minutes remaining, a failed conversion would have ended Maryland’s chances of winning. But Tagovailoa backed himself and his teammates in what he called a “die on your sword” post-match decision.
He took the snap and rolled to the right, a sprint play that saw the terps attempt to overload that side of the field. Ohio State covered well and it looked like Tagovailoa was going to die on that sword. He drifted further and further to the right, the touchline getting closer and closer as he searched for a way out.
But Tagovailoa found Jeshaun Jones for the touchdown, a result that gave Maryland a chance to keep battling with one of the nation’s best.
[Maryland football hopes players returning from injury can shore up shaky offensive line]
That result was achieved by a 49-yard pass to Rakim Jarrett, a throw that made Tagovailoa, Maryland the all-time passing leader.
“It is a blessing that my name is there with many great legends,” said Tagovailoa. “I always say that and I really mean it, it’s just a testament to my teammates… I always get the credit for it, all credit to God. I have to give that to my teammates.”
The Terps couldn’t get any closer, going three and out on the next possession and losing a fumble when Tagovailoa was sacked. He was injured that game, an injury he credited as a bruised knee after the game.
But despite the disappointing ending and loss, after two wandering weeks, Maryland’s offense and quarterback regained their identity as an explosive and efficient unit.