Taulia Tagovailoa lined up in shotgun on the outskirts of Towson’s 20-yard line early in the first quarter. In a flash after taking the snap from Mike Purcell, the quarterback felt multiple Tigers defenders closing in on him.
Tagovailoa quickly fired an incomplete pass near Maryland football’s sideline intended for Antwain Littleton II. As the ball spiraled over his hands, Tagovailoa took a colossal hit to the midsection and was driven hard to the ground.
He was slow to get back up, but ultimately did and ran for a touchdown on the next play.
Maryland’s shaky offensive line play was evident in the Terps’ season opening 38-6 victory over Towson. Tagovailoa led his offense to five scoring drives before being relieved of his duties midway through the third quarter but faced consistent pressure on seemingly every possession.
Tagovailoa worked behind a fluid offensive line, one that featured substitutions during the middle of series at times. Thirteen different players received snaps up front and the quarterback took snaps from three different centers.
“It was a little weird for me … we’re trying to figure out the best five and so we’re mixing and matching,” coach Mike Locksley said. “We’re gonna continue to try to play as many guys as we can. I’d like to get settled on an [offensive line].”
Five impact lineman from a season ago either entered the NFL or transferred out of College Park. That left DJ Glaze as Locksley and Tagovailoa’s lone certainty as a blocker entering the season.
Glaze performed admirably, not allowing any quarterback hits or hurries over 42 pass blocks, per Pro Football Focus, but the interior of Maryland’s line is where struggles were apparent.
Pressure came from straight ahead on Tagovailoa’s first big blow of the day when a defender evaded Purcell and quickly got to the redshirt senior. Purcell was charged with two of the offensive line’s six pressures allowed despite being on the field for just 23 pass blocking snaps.
Tagovailoa was walloped near the Maryland sideline on a play early in the second quarter after numerous Terps struggled in pass protection. Conor Fagan got beat to allow pressure from Tagovailoa’s right side, a Towson defender rushed free from Kyle Long and another split a double team of Purcell and Corey Bullock.
Fagan gave up two pressures while splitting time between guard and tackle. Bullock allowed two pressures and the lone hit to a Maryland quarterback.
Despite how much Tagovailoa was forced to leave the pocket, he has faith in his unit up front.
“I think whatever [offensive line] we put in there, if coach puts them in the game, I have the utmost confidence that they’ll do their job,” Tagovailoa said. “We know that we need the [offensive line] and we’re all dependent on them … I have a lot of trust in them. I think we’ll be good regardless of who’s in there.”
Beyond their liabilities in pass protection on Saturday, the line also experienced a pair of costly penalties.
Purcell was charged with a hands-to-the-face penalty, which negated an Octavian Smith Jr. rush that would’ve put the Terps inside Towson’s 20-yard line on their fifth possession of the afternoon. That drive ended in a missed field goal.
It looked like Maryland had its sixth touchdown of the day when Billy Edwards Jr. found and completed a short pass to Rico Walker uncovered in the end zone late in the fourth quarter. But Marcus Dumervil was flagged for an illegal man downfield penalty, negating the score as the Terps settled for a field goal a few plays later.
The Terps’ offensive line’s first chance to dispel the questions that surrounded them through fall camp wasn’t capitalized on. They didn’t dominate the line of scrimmage, but their quarterback holds confidence the group can begin to gel in the coming weeks.
“I think they handled it well,” Tagovailoa said. “It’s a new [offensive line], they’re getting to understand Big Ten football and how things happen.”