Washington

Terps sputter on both sides of the ball in opening loss to Northwestern

Washington

The much-anticipated debut of Taulia Tagovailoa at quarterback on Saturday did not go as well as Maryland fans hoped as Northwestern dominated Maryland in the season opener 43-3.

The good

It looked like this was going to be a good day for Maryland's offense on its first drive. The Terps moved the ball well, driving down the field for 56 yards and a field goal. Unfortunately, that was as good as things would get for Maryland as it was the team's best drive. They would not score again.

While things did not go well for Maryland's defense overall, twice Northwestern tried to draw the Terps offsides on fourth down and twice the Terps showed good discipline to stay onside and not give Northwestern a free first down.

The bad

With the last name of Tagovailoa, expectations were high for the Maryland quarterback in his first start, probably unreasonably so considering he is a sophomore with only 12 career pass attempts coming into Saturday's game. In his first career start, he really struggled as he completed 14 out of 25 passes for only 94 yards and three interceptions. Tagovailoa's confidence was clearly shot as he began missing easy passes and forcing balls into double coverage.

Quarterback Lance Legendre was expected to play as well, but did not get on the field until very late in the fourth quarter with the game already decided. While there is something to be said about not wanting Tagovailoa to feel like he needs to look over his shoulder in just his first start, the offense looked to be completely out of rhythm for the entire game after the opening drive. A change in quarterback may have been what Maryland needed to make this a game.

 

Tagovailoa was hardly the only Terp who had a rough night, however. Maryland made far too many mistakes including a fumbled kickoff by Isaiah Jacobs. Northwestern would score a field goal on the resulting drive to make it 27-3.

Linebacker Durell Nchami missed last season with an ACL tear which he suffered in August. On Saturday, he went down with an injury in the first quarter and did not return. His loss was a huge blow for the defense as he is arguably Maryland's best pass-rusher.

The crazy

The Wildcats were horrific offensively in 2019, ranking 126th in points per game (16.3 points per game) and 123rd in total offense (297.1 yards per game). With a new offensive coordinator in Mike Bajakian and transfer quarterback Peyton Ramsey taking over under center, Northwestern's offense was expected to be better, but even Pat Fitzgerald probably did not expect the Wildcats to have this much success offensively in the season opener.

Northwestern had 30 points and 336 yards of offense by halftime, easily topping their averages for both points and yards per game last season. Thirty points was the third-most they have scored in a first half since 2015.

For the game, Northwestern would score 43 total points and rack up 537 total yards of offense.

Maryland's offense did not look like it was on the same page, but it was the defense that was blown out of the water.