Tagovailoa had far more pressing thoughts swirling around in his mind.
He had just watched his older brother, Tua, suffer a frightening concussion during an NFL game on Thursday night. Eventually, amid a whirlwind 48 hours for the young quarterback, Tualia spoke to Tua via FaceTime. Locksley recalled Tua telling his brother, “Hey, I’m fine, man. Go play. I can’t wait to see you play and win a game. After dinner on Friday night, Locksley began to notice Taulia’s usual surge of energy. And then on Saturday, Tagovailoa led the Terps to a 27-13 victory over the Spartans as he has often done – with composure and productivity.
By the numbers, Saturday’s game at the newly renamed SECU Stadiuim was not Tagovailoa’s best outing. But the circumstances and mental toll of the past two days made it one of his most impressive performances as a Terrapin.
“I take my hat off to this kid,” said Locksley, who also coached Tua in Alabama and has a strong relationship with the Tagovailoa family. “You have no idea what the last 24-48 hours have been like for him. … Obviously his brother’s injury was close to his heart. We did well to surround him [with support].”
Tagovailoa picked a struggling secondary at Michigan State at a time when his team needed to respond to their first loss of the season last week at Michigan, a loss that left him with minor rib and knee injuries. . Wet conditions could have threatened Maryland’s prolific passing game, but Tagovailoa was unfazed.
Maryland (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) handed the Spartans their third straight loss. Tagovailoa and the Terps controlled much of the game, capitalizing on the Spartans’ lapses. Tagovailoa, who was unavailable to reporters after the game, finished with 314 yards on 32 of 41 passes; he only had one touchdown but no major errors.
“He was able to compartmentalize today and really focus on his job, and I thought the kid showed up,” Locksley said.
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Tagovailoa played in that game two days after his older brother, the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback, suffered a concussion during a game in Cincinnati and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. The chilling scene in which Tua was frozen to the ground with his hands spread out came four days after he was assessed for a possible head injury in Miami’s previous game but was cleared to return to that game and then play again Thursday.
As the NFL and the Dolphins come under scrutiny for the quarterback’s medical care, Tua written in a statement that he “feels a lot better and focused on his recovery so I can get back on the pitch with my teammates”.
Taulia, who is very close to his older brother, learned of the College Park injury midway through his preparation for Saturday’s game.
“We always make sure everyone is okay,” defensive back Tarheeb Still said. “Even if he lowers his head as he walks a little lower down the locker room, we still have it, and he knows we have it because we’re his brothers.”
Maryland’s defense did its part by keeping Michigan State (2-3, 0-2) just eight yards on offense during the third quarter as the Terps dominated possession and took a two-point lead . The Terps only scored on a pair of second-half Chad Ryland field goals, but they held the Spartans scoreless after the break. Locksley praised the halftime adjustments made by defensive coordinator Brian Williams.
Tagovailoa remained calm when surrounded by pressure from Michigan State, and the Spartans’ struggling passing defense often left him with options wide open on the field. Eight of Tagovailoa’s passes picked up at least 15 yards, and his offensive line allowed just one sack against a formidable Michigan State pass rush.
As Maryland paraded down the field in their opening practice, Tagovailoa became the fastest quarterback in program history to record 6,000 passing yards. Antwain Littleton II, a redshirt freshman running back, powered the midfielder on a fourth-and-a-play during that drive, then scored from 15 yards out moments later.
Early in the fourth quarter, the 235-pound running back charged downfield for 68 yards, but was forced out of bounds just short of the goal line. He had four attempts to kick the ball into the end zone, but landed inches from the fourth down.
“Minus the four cracks we had at the one-yard line after the long run, [Littleton] played really good football for us,” Locksley said. “He had a warm hand today. We left him in there, we fed him. With a guy with a big body like that, he wears down his defenses. Eventually, something will pop.
Even though Littleton was unable to convert in that streak, he finished the match with several successful replays in third-and-fourth-and-run situations. Those moments, along with sophomore running back Colby McDonald’s two-yard run in the first quarter, highlighted Maryland’s rushing offense, which finished with 175 yards.
Maryland’s top three running backs — Littleton, McDonald and starter Roman Hemby — also got involved in the passing game, combining 10 catches for 66 yards. Tagovailoa distributed the ball 10 Terps as he recorded his 10th career game with at least 300 passing yards, tying a school record.
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The Terps defense struggled early on at times but mustered enough saves — and benefited from enough special teams misfortunes — for Maryland to enter halftime with a 21-13 lead.
After two consecutive touchdowns to start the game, Maryland’s offense exploded with just 15 total yards in the next two series. The unit rediscovered their groove on a methodical drive late in the half that featured 10 successful passes and ended with Rakim Jarrett’s touchdown reception.
On what could have been a huge swing in favor of the Terps, second safety Dante Trader Jr. caught Payton Thorne’s pass and returned it for a touchdown. The score was canceled by a personal foul on Corey Coley Jr., who hit a Michigan State catcher as the ball fell into Trader’s hands. (Locksley said he didn’t want to “go down that rabbit hole” and talk about that penalty.) Michigan State kept the ball, but Jakorian Bennett blocked the Spartans field goal attempt late in the game. allotted time. Michigan State had already missed a field goal and a bad shot derailed an extra-run attempt in the second quarter.
The defense’s strong second half holds promise for the Terps’ next slate of games — Purdue, Indiana and Northwestern — that could help them keep their momentum going.