University of Maryland Head Coach Mike Locksley is one of the last coaches that would take credit for his team’s success. Last week, the Terps dispatched of their Big Ten East rivals from Indiana in a high scoring affair in College Park, Maryland. Wins have not been easy to come by for Maryland, who plays in one of the most competitive conferences in all of college football. The win is just the twelfth since 2019 for Locksley’s group, but with their fifth win this season Maryland has already matched its entire win total from the previous two seasons under Locksley’s watch.
As always, Locksley was complimentary of his players, particularly junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. If that name sounds familiar to football fans, Taulia is the younger brother to Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins who has recently been tied to a blockbuster trade with troubled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Taulia transferred over from the University of Alabama last season to gain the starting job in Maryland. Before taking the Maryland coaching job, Locksley was the offensive analyst at the powerhouse Crimson Tide program. In the game against Indiana, Taulia threw for an impressive 419 total yards, the most for a Maryland quarterback since 1993.
In his post game press conference Locksley was beaming about his team, saying that “we prepare for a four quarter-game and today it was. It didn’t have to be, but it was.” Locksley was seemingly referring to the fact that Indiana was down to their third-string quarterback after injuries to Michael Penix Jr. and Jack Tuttle. The Hoosiers started freshman quarterback Donaven McCaulley who had a decent showing throwing for 242 yards and two touchdowns in his first ever start.
Tough Season for the Hoosiers
It has been a disappointing season for Indiana who had bowl aspirations in mind when they started the year ranked in the top 25. The Hoosiers fell to 2-6 following the loss to the Terps, and 0-5 against Big Ten opponents. In a conference that has traditionally been dominated by the likes of Ohio State and Michigan, smaller schools like Indiana and Maryland need every victory they can get to ensure their recruiting classes can help them stay competitive.
Indiana now has losses to Iowa, Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Maryland in conference play this season, and has Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines on deck. For the Hoosiers, a bowl is out of reach and Head Coach Tom Allen will need to start looking towards next season. With just a few more games left in this largely forgettable season, Indiana will likely see what they have in McCaulley under center, with Michael Penix Jr most likely heading to the NFL Draft in 2022.
For Locksley and the Terrapins, they are now one win short of the minimum six needed to qualify for a bowl game this year. The next few weeks look to be challenging for the Terps with perennial powerhouses Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State on deck. The key for Maryland will come in the final week of the NCAA season when they face Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey. This is as winnable a game as Maryland has left on its schedule so you know that Coach Locksley will have his troops fired up for that one.
The victory over Indiana was also a relief for Maryland, who struggled to move the ball so far this year. It was the largest offensive output of the season aside from a 62-0 non-conference victory over FCS school Howard in Week 2. The 38 points that the Terps put up on Indiana was the most in an FBS game since Week 1 in Maryland’s surprising victory over West Virginia by the score of 30-24.
Coach Locksley has struggled to implement his offense in Maryland, after winning the Broyles Award in 2018 for being the top assistant coach in college football. The well-deserved award came following Locksley’s time in Alabama, where he worked alongside coaching legend Nick Saban. An award-winning resume and experience under Saban led to Locksley taking over in Maryland for the second time in his career. But Locksley will be the first to tell you it hasn’t been a smooth transition from assistant coach to head coach, even after Tagovailoa transferred in.
Granted, the Terps and Locksley lost their star receiver Dontay Demus Jr. in Week 5 against Iowa during a punt return. Demus Jr. looks to have played his last snap with the Terps as the speedster prepares to rehab in hopes of being ready for the 2022 NFL Draft. It has been a struggle since Demus Jr. has been out as Maryland scored just 17 and 16 points in Weeks 6 and 7 respectively, before the 38 point outburst against the Hoosiers. As patient as Coach Locksley is known to be, the offensive ineptitude in the early season was likely wearing on the offensive-minded play caller.
A Step Towards a Bowl Game for Maryland
Count the 2021 season as a nice step forward for Maryland who are very much in the discussion for a New Year’s bowl game. We also need to keep in mind that overall it has been a weaker year all around for the FBS. There is a strong chance that no team from the Big Ten will be making the College Football Playoffs, unless Ohio State can make a strong run to close out the season. Don’t let that take away the strides that Maryland has taken, as Taulia will look to take another step next season before he is eligible for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Draftkings Sportsbook had the Maryland over under win total set at 5.5 before the season opened, and it looks like that number is going to be bang on for pre-season bettors. The next few weeks will be trying for the Terrapins, but all eyes will be on the Week 13 matchup with Rutgers to determine bowl eligibility. In his third season at the helm, Coach Locksley is developing true NFL talent, and took a struggling program to the brink of its first Bowl Game since 2016.