Spencer Anderson has endured throttlings to Michigan across his five-year collegiate career.
The redshirt senior has been there for the 40-point wallopings — games that felt like they were over before they kicked off.
“I feel like my past four years being here, we’ve kind of just been moping around [against Michigan].” Anderson said.
But during the Terps’ narrow 34-27 loss on the road in Ann Arbor Saturday, Anderson felt his team’s demeanor shift.
The game’s opening reeked of the losses of years past. The opening kickoff caromed off wide receiver Tai Felton’s helmet and into the arms of the Wolverines, who cashed in with a touchdown on the following play.
But unlike in years past when the Terps quickly bowed out as Michigan began to pile on points, this year’s squad kept its composure and stayed close to the Wolverines throughout the game.
Part of that poise came from Anderson, the offensive line’s veteran leader. He paced the sideline to reassure his teammates as the fourth-ranked team in the country went up by a score within the game’s first ten seconds.
“We responded pretty well,” he said. “Everybody wasn’t really fazed by it in the flow of the game.”
The Terps safely fielded Michigan’s next kickoff. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and Maryland’s offense stepped on the field for their first chance of the day, albeit in a quick seven-point hole, and quickly strung together three straight scoring possessions.
Two 50-plus yard Chad Ryland field goals sandwiched a six-minute touchdown drive to give coach Mike Locksley’s squad a 13-10 edge in the second quarter — marking the first time Michigan trailed all season.
“I think the DNA of this team has been a team that’s gonna play for four quarters,” head coach Mike Locksley said.
Maryland’s valiant effort came with occasional lapses. As the first half waned, Blake Corum burst free for a 33-yard touchdown on fourth-and-one, putting the Terps behind by four points heading into the halftime break.
After neither team scored in the third quarter, Tagovailoa threw a deep ball into double coverage in the fourth that was intercepted by Michigan’s R.J. Moten. The costly turnover primed the Wolverines to stretch their lead to double-digits on the ensuing possession, ultimately thwarting Maryland’s comeback bid.“We knew we had a chance to be in this game and that we would have to make some plays to take it because they won’t give it to you,” Locksley said. “And we didn’t take it today.”
But even when the game looked out of hand, the Terps battled. When Tagovailoa exited the game after being “banged up” with knee and rib injuries, transfer quarterback Billy Edwards Jr. took center in the game’s waning moments.
Fourteen plays and 75 yards later, an 18-yard touchdown strike from Edwards to CJ Dippre brought the game back to just one possession with under a minute remaining. Ryland’s last-ditch onside kick rolled harmlessly into Michigan’s grasp — sealing the Terps’ fate — but Locksley was happy with the toughness his team showed with the scoreboard not in their favor.
“Those are the things that give me hope that they’re listening, that they understand that we’re not a team that can play to the scoreboard,” he said. “It’s all about us executing the things that we asked them to do.”
Locksley didn’t want to take moral victories from the loss. Neither did Anderson, nor Ryland, who each stressed the importance of improvement ahead of Maryland’s next Big Ten bout at home against Michigan State.
But the Terps’ resilience marked a step forward in Locksley’s eyes.
“There are some things that I thought that we showed kind of where we have a chance to be as a team, who we have a chance to be as a team.”