Purdue couldn’t keep possession of the football in the third quarter against Maryland football Saturday.
First, it was a Durell Nchami strip-sack that sent the football tumbling out of Aidan O’Connell’s arms and into Austin Fontaine’s grasp. On the Boilermakers’ next possession, an O’Connell pass over the middle of the field deflected off a receiver’s hands and into the arms of Jakorian Bennett, who stood up and danced in celebration with his teammates.
“I think our defense is gaining confidence,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “Things that they’ve been able to do in the second half of games shows that these guys have bought in and understand what we want to get accomplished.”
Purdue’s turnover-riddled third quarter culminated when freshman Jaishawn Barham forced a Tyrone Tracy Jr. fumble.
With the game at deadlocked at 17, each of the three straight turnovers forced by Maryland’s defense could’ve been the turning point in a close conference battle at SECU Stadium.
But instead, the Terps’ offense sputtered, scoring zero points in the quarter in the eventual 31-29 loss at home to the Boilermakers.
“They gave us opportunities, and we squandered them,” Locksley said. “You don’t get those types of opportunities without them coming back to bite you in the butt.”
It started when a Taulia Tagovailoa pass to CJ Dippre on third down came up a yard short of a first down following the Nchami strip sack. The Terps opted to go for the fourth down try, but the Purdue defense denied running back Antwain Littleton.
The four-and-out looked to prove costly as the Boilermakers were given the ball back with prime field position. But Bennett’s pick kept the game tied.
The Maryland offense showed promise on the ensuing drive — three Colby McDonald runs followed by two five-yard Tagovailoa completions gave the Terps breathing room.
Their progress quickly halted, though, when Tagovailoa was dropped for an eight-yard loss by Khordae Sydnor to force an eventual Colton Spangler punt. The sack was one of five that Maryland suffered in the loss, the most it’s allowed in a single game this season.
“We had three turnovers, couldn’t capitalize,” Tagovailoa said. “Coach always talks about playing complementary football. We couldn’t do that today.”
The Terps failed to pick up a first down following Barham’s forced fumble on the next possession. The stalled drive brought on kicker Chad Ryland to attempt a 52-yard field goal, which he pushed wide as Maryland’s scoreless stretch droned on.
“I mean, it’s football,” tight end Corey Dyches said on the dry stretch following the game. “You’re gonna have great drives, you’re gonna have some bad drives … It was great to have the takeaways. Of course you want to score on those, but you just move on from it.”
Dyches and the Terps were able to end their offensive struggles in the fourth quarter. Touchdowns to Roman Hemby and Corey Dyches gave Maryland a chance at a two-point conversion to send the game to overtime.
But as Tagovailoa’s pass attempt on the game-deciding two-point conversion sailed high in the direction of Jeshaun Jones, the Terps’ offense walked off the field empty-handed once again.
“I think we did a good job of trying to fight back,” Tagovailoa said. “Our defense gave us a lot of opportunities to do that. But we just gotta finish.”