Early season success has become normal for Maryland football, but the start of this 2022 season has a different level of hype behind it.
The Terps defeated Michigan State, 27-13, in their Big Ten home opener, providing a key bounce-back effort after a narrow road loss to No. 4 Michigan. Taulia Tagovailoa leads all Big Ten quarterbacks in completion percentage (min. 100 attempts) at 75.5% and Maryland’s running backs rank No. 3 in the league in yards per carry as part of the No. 4 offense in the conference.
Despite the success, Maryland has struggled to fill SECU Stadium above 60% this season, with the season-best attendance of 31,194 coming out to support the Terps against SMU.
“If you’re a real competitor, you’ll play in front of 100,000 or you’ll play in front of one,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “We all know what this area brings, it’s the gift and the curse of being in a great metropolitan area where there are a lot of things to do. There’s pro teams here unlike some of these small towns, you know, maybe that doesn’t benefit us in attendance all the time… We’re kind of fair weather fans in this area. We come support you when you’re up and so it’s our job to put a product out that’s moving upward, that makes people want to come see. And I can tell you my phone’s been ringing off the hook with all these people asking for tickets now and all of a sudden. I’ll tell them ‘Hey, if you weren’t here from the start, don’t call me now.’”
With a 4-1 record and an upcoming stretch of games against Purdue, Indiana and Northwestern on the horizon, there is a sense of belief that Maryland can keep pushing to new heights. That hype was multiplied rapidly Monday, as a motivational video was sent to Locksley from premier artist DJ Khaled.
Maryland Football x DJ Khaled may win as most unexpected collab of the day todaypic.twitter.com/UoIri7D4BA
— Wesley Brown (@W_Brown21) October 3, 2022
“That was lit, you know, ‘God did,’” Isaiah Hazel said. “I’ve been saying that for a little minute and when I saw he did it for us, I was like that’s nice. I liked it.”
Locksley revealed that his college roommate works for Jordan Brandwhich partners with DJ Khaled, and was in town over the weekend for the Michigan State game before heading back to Miami.
“He said he’d watched it maybe and then they sent me the video to my phone like he was like, ‘Where’d this come from?’” Locksley said. “So I sent it over to our media people and said ‘Do what you can with it, if it helps us and keeps us relevant.’”
Even with the outside noise building, Locksley and his program remain focused on one week at a time, turning full attention to beating Purdue on Saturday at noon.
Notes and Quotes
Looking to Purdue… The Boilermakers another program lying under the radar a bit in 2022 after a close season-opening loss at home to No. 10 Penn State and then a tough road loss to No. 22 Syracuse, both by one score or less.
“The first game against Penn State was a game that I thought very easily could have gone in another direction,” Locksley said. “For them to go up and beat Minnesota, a big win for their program and it’s a testament obviously to the coaching staff and those players really believing.”
The Terps will be forced to try and shut down a strong quarterback in Aidan O’Connell and a two-headed rushing attack of Devin Mockobee and Dyland Downing that will look to build off his victory over the Golden Gophers.
Second-half adjustments… Maryland’s defense has quietly become a signature part of this year’s program, particularly in its adjustments at halftime. The Terps have allowed a combined 34 second-half points so far this season, 17 of which came against No. 4 Michigan in Ann Arbor. That’s less than one second-half touchdown per game on average.
“A lot of people do seem to come out in the second half [and] start off very good,” Hazel said. “Some may say it’s the jitters, the nervousness, but I just feel as though you’re just trying to figure out the offense we’re playing against and really dial into what we’re doing.”
Purdue is a team that has shown a lack of ability to stay strong for 60 minutes, particularly in allowing 22 fourth quarter points to Syracuse, potentially leaving the door open for Maryland to battle back late if necessary.
Tagovailoa thanks… Taulia Tagovailoa opened his media session Tuesday by giving thanks for the well-wishes and thoughts from everyone regarding his brother, Tua, who sustained a scary concussion on Thursday Night Football in Cincinnati.
Taulia was watching the game with family in Virginia and said he spent all of Thursday and Friday worrying as he wasn’t allowed to speak with his brother, but finally got in touch after the Maryland team dinner that evening.
“I think my team was the biggest help… I had a lot of shoulders to cry on and stuff like that,” Tagovailoa said. “Friday night, after our team dinner, he finally called me and I really just wanted to go there and you know, just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that. But he told me, he’s a big fan of ours and he would rather watch me play on Saturday and win and stuff like that. So after that phone call, you know, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine and stuff again.”
After the win over Michigan State, Taulia flew down to Florida and got that much needed time with his family during the Terps’ day off. He returned to College Park Sunday night and added that Tua is doing well and that he appreciated the support for himself and his family.