At the end of the day, all that was left for Jack Plummer to do was to take a knee, dropping to the turf and allowing the remaining time to tick down to zero on a game that was already long over. It was the Purdue quarterback who led his team past Maryland football — and a litany of injuries — on Saturday. It was only fitting for the game to end with the ball in his hands.
The redshirt freshman, who was pushed into duty early and often this season following projected starter Elijah Sindelar’s injuries, didn’t play like a backup quarterback. Instead, Plummer exposed the Terps’ secondary en route to 420 yards on 33 completions, finding his receivers at an 80.5 percent rate.
For the Boilermakers, Plummer’s display builds excitement for the future, despite Saturday only being the team’s second win this season. But for Maryland, a 40-14 loss leaves another set of reflections entirely, one that builds pressure on a squad scouring its remaining Big Ten schedule for the three more wins it needs to reach bowl eligibility.
Following Saturday’s defeat, here are three takeaways from the Terps’ performance.
Penalties and imprecise play
Considering his career-long field goal is from 40 yards and that he missed a 42-yarder against Temple earlier this season, kicker Joseph Petrino may not have had much of a chance from 49 yards right before halftime.
He most certainly didn’t seem likely to knock the ball through the uprights from 54 yards, after a delay of game on the field goal attempt turned a difficult try into an impossible one. Coach Mike Locksley shook his head on the sideline and called a timeout.
The punt unit took the field after the stoppage and booted the ball into the end zone for a touchback. They were called for illegal formation, prompting more head-shaking from Locksley after an ugly sequence took away a possible scoring chance and tallied up two of Maryland’s nine penalties that afternoon.
[Read more: Jack Plummer picks apart Maryland football as Purdue pulls away, 40-14]
The first penalty — a holding call on running back Javon Leake as pressure flushed quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome out of the pocket — negated the 50-yard touchdown strike Pigrome delivered to wide receiver Dontay Demus.
And on fourth-and-3 late in the first quarter, there was a different sort of miscue. Running back Anthony McFarland, who was held to 4 yards on four carries, ran out of the backfield on a wheel route. Perhaps he saw the Purdue defender barreling down on him.
But whatever the reason, an open McFarland dropped the pass, and what could have been a 21-yard touchdown pass became an incompletion and turnover on downs, giving the Terps one more reason to wonder “What if?”
With no holding penalty, a first-drive touchdown pass to Demus put Maryland ahead. McFarland’s play could have cut the early first-quarter deficit in half. And without Pigrome’s pick-six with under a minute to go before halftime, Maryland would have only trailed by nine, a more manageable deficit to overcome.
Instead, a slew of blunders occurred. And the Terps are 3-3 because of it.
There were three Maryland defenders there, but it was linebacker Keandre Jones who was credited with the 11-yard sack that saw Purdue pinned back at third-and-20 on their first drive. A 23-yard touchdown strike from Plummer to David Bell — fitting the pass between two defenders — followed. It would be a theme for the rest of the outing.
While the Terps pressured Purdue into third downs, they couldn’t find a way to force them into fourth downs. Instead, the Boilermakers converted 11 of their 18 third downs, averaging 11.7 yards on those attempts despite facing an average down-and-distance of 7.7 yards.
[Read more: Often waiting his turn with Maryland football, Tyrrell Pigrome is starting once more]
An inability to get off the field on third down doomed Maryland. The big plays produced on those third downs led to scores.
Facing a third-and-7 on its second drive, Purdue completed an 18-yard catch-and-run that set up a four-yard rushing score moments later. On a second-quarter drive that ended with a field goal, the Boilermakers were faced with third-down distances of 11 and 13 yards. They picked up 28 and 13 yards, respectively, to keep the chains moving.
And after Bell was called for pass interference late in the third — turning a third-and-2 into a third-and-17 — Plummer found tight end Brycen Hopkins for 38 yards ahead of the Boilermakers’ final score.
It was a common occurrence Saturday and a large part of Purdue’s 40 points.
Pigrome can run, but his passing is still suspect
When Pigrome kept the ball rather than handing it off to McFarland on third-and-1 in the second quarter, he fooled everyone — including the cameraman. With tight end Tyler Mabry out blocking in front of him, Pigrome ran 61 yards to the end zone, scoring Maryland’s final points ahead of the second-half shutout.
Pigrome ran for a team-high 107 yards. He looked confident cutting, seemingly no longer feeling any adverse effects from his torn ACL in 2017’s season opener against Texas.
But his passing was suspect, including two interceptions to Purdue cornerback Cory Trice, the first of which Trice returned for a touchdown. The second was behind wide receiver Darryl Jones, bouncing off his hands and into Trice’s arms.
With Josh Jackson sidelined for an unknown period of time with a high ankle sprain, it’ll be Pigrome under center. And while he did damage with his legs, his 21-for-39 passing day for 218 yards didn’t instill tremendous confidence in that area of his game moving forward.