After a huge comeback win against Minnesota in overtime Oct. 30, sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and the Maryland football team made history in State College, Pa., with a 35-19 win Nov. 6, beating Penn State for the first time since 2014 and just the third time ever.
Tagovailoa attributes much of the team’s success to Maryland head coach Michael Locksley, who has led the Terps to a 2-1 start.
“I feel that Coach Locksley is an amazing coach. He’s a great coach. He deserves everything he’s getting right now,” Tagovailoa said on Glenn Clark Radio Nov. 10. “For us, it’s only up from here. … He’s taking everyone to a different level. So us as a team, we just have to continue to buy into what he’s doing and just continue to trust him. He’s our leader and we follow Coach Locks.”
This season marks Locksley’s 12th season coaching in some capacity at Maryland (1997-2002, 2012-2015 and the past two seasons). In 2019, Locksley’s first season as the full-time head coach, the team went 3-9 overall with a 1-8 record in Big Ten matchups.
Tagovailoa has a strong bond with Locksley, who recruited him to Alabama before leaving for Maryland. Locksley was also Taulia’s brother Tua’s offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2018, so he has a close relationship with the Tagovailoa family. Taulia was the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the 2019 recruiting class, according to 247Sports. He has lived up to the billing, completing 58 of 86 passes for 770 yards and six touchdowns so far during his first season with the Terps.
Tagovailoa transferred to Maryland in May and gained immediate eligibility in August.
“When I first came over here, I felt the family environment, and Coach Locks believes in hard work. … Coach always told us objects are closer than they appear,” Tagovailoa said. “It was just a matter of time before we figured out that once we gel together as a team, we feel like things are going to be good. As of right now, we’re just working hard.”
The Terps had a tough start to the season with a disappointing 43-3 loss to Northwestern. Tagovailoa completed 14 of 25 passes for just 94 yards against the Wildcats, but that didn’t foretell what was to come for the Terps and their young quarterback in this unprecedented season.
“I think it was just our team’s focus,” Tagovailoa said of what led the team to turn things around after the Northwestern game. “I feel like the first week everything was going good, we were working hard the whole weeks, but it was just about the actions. … The second week we came with a chip on our shoulder.”
“We’re all competitive, and we love to compete. We’re in the Big Ten, so I feel like it’s the right place to compete,” Tagovailoa added. “As far as the team, we don’t feel any pressure. We just believe in hard work.”
After the Northwestern game, Tagovailoa completed 26 of 35 passes for 394 yards and three touchdowns to lead his team to an exciting 45-44 win against Minnesota. He completed 18 of 26 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns in the win at Penn State.
“I just trust God’s plan, and there’s always things that he does that we could never imagine,” Tagovailoa said. “I’m just happy that things are working out for us and for our team, and we’re just trying to win games.”
The Terps were looking to continue improving upon their record by taking on No. 3 Ohio State Nov. 14, but that game was canceled due to COVID-19 cases in Maryland’s program. The Buckeyes are tied for first in the Big Ten East (along with Indiana) with wins against Nebraska, Penn State and Rutgers to kick off their season.
It’s unclear where the Terps’ season will go from here, but Tagovailoa will be ready.
“Be humble and hungry, and every week is a new week,” Tagovailoa said before the Ohio State game was canceled. “We just have to continue to work hard. We like to compete.”
This story was updated after the Terps’ game against Ohio State was canceled.
For more from Tagovailoa, including why he wants to meet Lamar Jackson, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics