After two offseason knee replacement surgeries this past summer, Maryland football coach Mike Locksley found himself with an abundance of time to analyze his team’s 2021 campaign.
“I studied us,” he said.
Locksley scoured the highs and lows from a 7-6 season that culminated in a 54-10 walloping of Virginia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl — Maryland’s first bowl appearance since 2016 and its first postseason victory in more than a decade.
The curtains of the Terps’ 2021 season closed as red and white jerseys sprinted out of Yankee Stadium hoisting a silver trophy. But while their triumph over the Hokies marked a step forward for a program still trying to find its footing in the Big Ten, Locksley and his players zeroed in on finding areas of improvement for the next iteration of Maryland football.
“When you turn on film, I mean nobody really beat us … the six losses that we had last year [were] Terps beating Terps,” offensive lineman Spencer Anderson said. “We had penalties, turnovers … the proof is in the pudding when you look at the percentages, and I feel like for us to take that next step, we just have to eliminate the mistakes and the penalties.”
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Last season, Maryland ranked second in the Big Ten in total penalties. The Terps also ranked third in the conference in average penalty yards at 57.2 per game for the 2021 season.
Eliminating self-inflicted wounds became the mantra of Maryland’s fall camp. Locksley dubbed a “Terps vs. Terps” mentality that has been a major focus for his team during practice ahead of Saturday’s season opener against Buffalo.
“It’s an always thing,” Locksley said. “Because the opponent is really important, but what’s more important is that good teams don’t beat themselves in any of the three phases, and that’s what ‘Terps vs. Terps’ [is] for us.”
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is focused on limiting Maryland’s red-zone miscues and converting more opportunities in the final 20 yards heading into his third season under center in College Park.
The Terps ranked third-to-last in the Big Ten in red zone scoring percentage last season despite ranking second in the conference with 60 trips to the red zone.
“There are some touchdowns I’m missing in the red zone [that are] wide open,” Tagovailoa said before the team opened its first day of practice Aug. 3.
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Defensively, Locksley has stressed the importance of constant communication in the secondary in hopes of limiting big plays from opposing offenses. Teams pummeled the Terps with chunk plays that came due to a lack of cohesion.
“A lot of those missed assignments a year ago were, you know, some communication issues between safeties to corners or safeties to linebackers getting us lined up correctly,” Locksley said.
Maryland lost two veteran leaders in the secondary this past offseason — Nick Cross and Jordan Mosley. The Terps now rely on a cast headlined by junior Tarheeb Still, senior Jakorian Bennett and sophomore Dante Trader.
Despite Cross and Mosley’s departures raising questions in Maryland’s secondary, Still expressed confidence in his offseason progress.
“The game has slowed down a lot, now I feel a lot more comfortable [and] confident,” Still said before the team opened up training camp.
The Terps have won just six conference games over the course of Locksley’s nearly four-year tenure in College Park. With perennial powerhouses Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State all on the docket this season, Locksley’s squad will look to improve its record against those formidable Big Ten programs, building on its bowl-winning 2021 season.
But before taking any of those teams head on, the Terps are focused on not beating themselves.