Trailing 17-7 early in the second quarter, Maryland junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa lofted a pass over the middle intended for sophomore tight end Corey Dyches.
Tagovailoa’s pass was deflected by Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell and into the arms of defensive back Jack Koerner, setting the Hawkeyes up with great field position at Maryland’s 26-yard line.
That was one of seven turnovers on the night for Maryland (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten), three of which came in the nightmarish second quarter in which the Hawkeyes scored 31 consecutive points.
In a situation where Maryland’s offense desperately needed a response from their leader, the unit allowed Iowa’s defense to continue building momentum. The interception marked Maryland’s first offensive play since senior wide receiver Dontay Demus was carted off the field a few minutes prior with a lower leg injury.
Demus’ injury was a devastating blow to Maryland’s offense. Tagovailoa’s second interception was one of several cascading mistakes for the Terps in their nightmarish 51-14 loss to No. 5 Iowa (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten). Head coach Michael Locksley said Demus had an initial X-Ray after his injury, but the team will know more once an MRI is conducted.
During that quarter, Tagovailoa threw three interceptions, reverting back to some of the porous decision-making that plagued his early struggles last season. Overall, he finished 16-for-29 with two touchdowns and a career-high five interceptions.
“I think the big thing for Taulia is just keeping his confidence,” Locksley said. “I think anytime you have a multiple-interception game like that for a quarterback, he was pressing a little bit after the first couple of interceptions wanting to go and play well. I’ve still got a lot of faith in him as a quarterback and this was a poor game not just on his part, but all of ours.”
Maryland compounded those interceptions with undisciplined play, tallying eight first-half penalties for 81 yards, stalling their own drives and keeping the Hawkeyes’ drives alive. The Terps finished with a season-high 10 penalties for 86 yards. It also marked the second consecutive game in which the Terps were penalized at least nine times.
Throughout the season, Locksley has consistently wondered about two things — whether or not the Terps would be a disciplined team and how they would respond to adversity. They failed miserably in both areas, as the Hawkeyes’ commanding lead continued to build and the Terps’ hopes of defeating a top-five opponent continued to dwindle.
However, Maryland had shown signs of promise in the opening quarter, leading 7-3 at its conclusion. From there it was all Hawkeyes, as quarterback Spencer Petras scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge on the opening play of the second quarter.
The ensuing kickoff, Demus’ aforementioned injury and fumble set Iowa up with terrific field-position at the Terps’ 9-yard line, a devastating blow for Maryland. Two plays later, Iowa capitalized on the turnover, as Petras connected with Arland Bruce IV for an 8-yard score and a 17-7 lead.
With Maryland desperately needing a touchdown drive to stop the bleeding, Koerner’s interception dealt another brutal blow. It also once again set the Hawkeyes up with advantageous field position at the Terps’ 26-yard line.
After the interception, Maryland’s defense seemed poised to deliver a critical stop with Iowa facing a third-and-20 situation. However, on Petras’ second-down incompletion, defensive tackle Ami Finau was called for roughing the passer giving Iowa new life and an automatic first down.
Finau’s penalty represented another back-breaking error, as the Hawkeyes continued to capitalize. Five plays later, Petras scored his second rushing touchdown of the game, pushing Iowa’s lead to 24-7 with 13:50 remaining in the second quarter.
Now trailing by 17, Tagovailoa continued to press, struggling with the opportunistic Hawkeyes’ defense. Facing a first-and-10 from his own 28-yard line, Tagovailoa once again threw into a tight window and defensive back Dane Belton came down with the interception.
That throw epitomized Tagovailoa’s struggles throughout and set the Hawkeyes up in Maryland’s territory for the fourth time in seven first-half drives. His third interception provided another indication of the Terps’ inability to prevent their errors from snowballing.
Leading 34-7 at the break, Iowa continued to dominate in the second half with scores on their first two possessions. As Iowa’s offense continued to thrive and their lead ballooned to 44-7 midway through the third quarter, Maryland’s offense remained flummoxed and out of rhythm.
On a night that entered with so much anticipation, the Terps repeated errors and poor discipline leave them with a host of questions entering their matchup against No. 11 Ohio State on the road in Columbus Oct. 9.
“It’s important for us as a team that we can’t let one game define us and we can’t let one game playing poorly lead to a second one,” Locksley said. “It will be a challenge for this team this week to see if we’re a team that can stick together and bounce back, which I believe we will.”
This story was updated with quotes from Locksley after its original publication.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox