Maryland football enters its Big Ten home-opener against Indiana a perfect 4-0 after winning each contest by at least 18 points.
But they haven’t met what coach Michael Locksley calls “the standard.”
Locksley identified Maryland’s winning formula as producing big plays on offense, minimizing them on defense, winning the turnover battle and playing “great situational football.”
The Terps have failed to fulfill all parts of that recipe in any outing this season. Despite that, Saturday’s game gives them the chance to improve to 5-0 for the first time since 2001.
“We haven’t played the perfect game,” Locksley said. “The perfect game is winning and meeting our standard, and we haven’t had any of those yet.”
Maryland clobbered Towson 38-6 in its season opener behind an excellent offensive showing. The Terps converted 50 percent of their third downs, didn’t turn the ball over and registered eight big plays — completions of at least 15 yards and runs of at least 10 yards.
Taulia Tagovailoa carved up the Tigers’ pass defense for 260 yards and three scores. He recorded five big plays through the air, including a pair of touchdowns to Corey Dyches and Jeshaun Jones. On the ground, Tagovailoa, Roman Hemby and Colby McDonald all notched rushes of more than 10 yards.
But defensively, Maryland allowed five big plays and didn’t force a turnover.
“Unfortunately for me, I tend to dwell on what we didn’t do,” he said. “And that’s not necessarily best for our team. That’s where I struggle, because my job is to continue to push, but there’s a fine line between pushing and also celebrating the victories that we have right at that moment.”
The Terps’ rushing attack wore Charlotte’s defense down in Week 2, running for 243 yards.
Maryland had fourteen big plays against Charlotte but Tagovailoa threw two interceptions — including a pick-six on his very first throw. While the Terps’ defense forced a pair of turnovers and limited the 49ers to just 20 percent on third down, it gave up seven big plays.
“We always appreciate all the victories, it’s hard winning,” Tagovailoa said. “He congratulates us because at the end of the day we got the job done, but we know ourselves, and at the end of the day, the two most important things [are] winning and playing to the standard.”
The quarterback led a Maryland offense that checked each of Locksley’s boxes against Virginia. It notched 12 big plays, went 7-of-13 on third down and returned to its Week 1 form with a giveaway-free showing.
The Terps’ defense forced turnovers on four straight fourth-quarter drives that helped its offense score 21 points in the final frame. But the Cavaliers registered 11 big plays and converted more than 50 percent of their third downs.
Maryland’s latest victory was a 22-point defeat of Michigan State. The Terps jumped out to an early lead — the first time since Week 1— and maintained control the rest of the way. But they still couldn’t achieve Locksley’s winning formula.
The offense racked up seven big plays, but Tagovailoa threw an interception in the Spartans’ end zone trying to force a touchdown. The defense recorded five takeaways, but allowed ten big plays as Michigan State notched more than 370 yards of offense.
Locksley said he needs to find a better balance between appreciating his team’s wins and getting them to play to the standard.
“I’m not gonna stop pushing the team, you best believe that, but I will not focus on the negative pieces,” Locksley said. “I need to check myself at times, especially right after a game that we won.”