When coach Mike Locksley rewatched Maryland football’s 30-0 loss to Penn State, the way his team was “out-toughed” jumped off the screen.
The Terps’ offensive line struggled mightily in the game, marking the second straight game the unit has been routed at the line of scrimmage.
“They played tougher and harder than we did,” Locksley said of the Nittany Lions. “That’s not typically what a Maryland football team has looked like.”
Penn State’s defense totaled seven sacks against Taulia Tagovailoa and hit Maryland’s quarterback seven more times. The beating came one week after Wisconsin brought down Tagovailoa five times and hit him three times.
Sacks aren’t only the fault of an offensive line, something Tagovailoa noted Tuesday. But the hits he’s taking remain notable, especially as he plays with a reaggravated MCL sprain that forced him to miss Maryland’s win over Northwestern.
When asked about the injury, Tagovailoa said everyone is playing with some sort of ailment at this point in the year.
The quarterback is coming off of two of the worst performances in his career, setting career lows in passing yards in consecutive weeks.
But the passing game isn’t the only culprit for Maryland’s offensive doldrums — the unit came into Madison with a eight-game streak of scoring at least 27 points but has been limited to 10 in the last two games combined.
The Terps have failed to hit their season average of 154.3 yards per rush in either of the last two matchups and tallied just 60 yards on the ground against the Nittany Lions.
Both of Maryland’s last two games have come in inclement weather, a staple of Big Ten football. Locksley knows that — it’s why he feels the importance of the running game.
“When I talk about building a team for November in the Big Ten, weather is a factor,” he said. “Balance isn’t necessarily throwing it for a certain amount of yards or running it for a certain amount. It’s being able to do both when you need to, and when we play in some of the elements we played in, we need to run the ball.”
Left guard Mason Lunsford, who missed the last two games with a concussion, is expected to return to the lineup before Maryland’s Saturday game against No. 2 Ohio State.
The move would allow starting center Johari Branch to slide over from left guard, giving the Terps their opening day offensive line. Having those two back at the middle of the offense along with right guard Spencer Anderson gives the Terps veteran strength Locksley said they lacked at times with freshman center Coltin Deery.
“A guy like Johari who’s played three years of football has the strength necessary vs. heavy-handed teams to maintain that pocket integrity,” Locksley said. “Mason being back, another guy that has been in our strength and conditioning program for three years now, that helps us.”
The Terps face an imposing Ohio State team Saturday. Lunsford’s return should help the offensive line, but another performance like the last two weeks could result in a slew of Buckeye scarlet streaming into the Maryland backfield.