Maryland football carved back from a three-score deficit to enter the fourth quarter down five. The Terps’ offense had three separate chances to engineer go-ahead touchdown drives following Michigan punts.
Their first drive resulted in a punt. Their second possession ended in a Taulia Tagovailoa interception. Tagovailoa was penalized with intentional grounding in the end zone to end the third drive, resulting in a safety.
Maryland’s defense had one final chance to send its offense back on the field if it stopped the Wolverines on fourth-and-1. Blake Corum rushed up the middle, searching for the needed yard to secure his team’s win.
After a lengthy review and official measurement, Michigan converted. The Terps’ hopes of a monumental upset were killed.
“Obviously I didn’t think it was a first and it sure didn’t look like a first,” linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II said. “… We can’t always put the game in the officials hands.”
Maryland fell to No. 2 Michigan, 31-24, again coming up short against a superior opponent.
“The only way over is to get it done,” coach Michael Locksley said. “You ain’t gonna get it done by talking about it. You’ve got to execute in critical situations against really good teams to win games like this.”
The Terps have struggled mightily against ranked Big Ten opponents in Locksley’s tenure. The coach entered Saturday winless in such games.
Tuesday, he called Saturday a “breakthrough game” for the program. But once again, Maryland fell short of topping an elite conference rival. The distance between them and the Big Ten’s elites was reinforced.
Maryland’s faults showed early. Tagovailoa was sacked and fumbled late in the first quarter, which Michigan picked up and ran back for its second score. A blocked punt on the Terps’ next drive resulted in a Wolverines safety. In a two-minute stretch, Maryland found itself in a 16-3 deficit and disaster seemingly loomed.
Corum’s excellent first half aided Maryland’s demise. He totaled 54 yards on 13 carries in the opening half and accounted for both of the Wolverines’ offensive touchdowns. The running back finished with 94 yards on 28 attempts.
The Terps’ defense allowed Maryland to remain within reach despite its disastrous offensive start. Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy completed just 54 percent of his passes and was intercepted by Jaishawn Barham on the goal line to send Maryland into halftime down 23-10.
Maryland’s defense kept Michigan in check in the second half. Four of the Wolverines’ six drives after the break resulted in punts, McCarthy was sacked twice and they averaged just 3.3 yards per play.
The Terps struck twice in the third quarter to shrink their deficit. But another mistake — a Tagovailoa interception for the fourth straight game — ended a potential go-ahead drive. And the offensive ineptitude in the fourth quarter was the ultimate decider.
“We never changed the field position,” Locksley said. “… That’s where we have to learn to execute critical situations with our backs to it.”
Maryland has had several chances for statement victories over the past two seasons. It held a touchdown lead over No. 3 Ohio State in the third quarter earlier this season. It trailed by less than a touchdown in the fourth quarter to top-five Michigan and Buckeyes teams last year. But the Terps failed to ultimately find a win that’s eluded them.
Maryland’s loss to Michigan continued its struggles against the conference’s upper echelon teams — the Terps are now 0-34 against ranked Big Ten teams since joining the conference in 2014. Maryland’s defeat was yet another failed chance for a trademark win.
The Terps will be going to a bowl game for a third consecutive season. Their program has steadied after years of uncertainty. Still, this loss made improving on last year’s eight-win season impossible. Maryland will end 2023 without the breakthrough win it coveted all season.
“I just really wish I could give coach Locks the victory that he deserves,” Tagovailoa said.