“We all have a responsibility to be personally responsible for what we record and how we train – players and coaches included,” said manager Michael Locksley. “I have no doubt that Lia was personally responsible for how he played on Saturday.”
Locksley, a former quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, will meet with his quarterbacks on Sunday after the games. Every loss brings urgency and the assurance that another opportunity will soon arise. For Tagovailoa, the next chance comes on Friday night against the visiting Minnesota Gophers. Locksley said he was “100 percent” committed to Tagovailoa as Maryland’s starter.
The second player’s performance in the North West – 14:25 for 94 yards with three interceptions in a 43-3 loss – could be remembered as just a poor performance, despite the Terrapins’ worst loss since the team’s inaugural season in 1892 . If Tagovailoa becomes the Terps’ long-awaited stable quarterback, this game could become one of more than 30.
“We’ll watch films and see the mistakes,” said Tagovailoa after the season opener. “I have full confidence in Coach Locks and our entire team that we will get back to it better.”
Maryland’s fighting in Evanston went far beyond that of Tagovailoa. The Terrapins defense played poorly, allowing Northwestern a 537 yard attack with a new coordinator, Mike Bajakian, and Indiana graduate transfer quarterback Peyton Ramsey.
When the offensive fought and Tagovailoa threw two interceptions in the first quarter, Locksley remained committed to his starter. Locksley has said his starting quarterback will not have a short leash and “won’t have to look over his shoulder”. Replacing a difficult quarterback midgame can be beneficial in the short term, but it can affect the player’s confidence and ability to play without fear of making mistakes. Locksley had the same philosophy last season as Josh Jackson, who played well early in the season but struggled with Big Ten. Jackson completed only 47.3 percent of the passes and ended the year with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions, but Locksley never changed his starting quarterback because of his performance.
Redshirt freshman Lance LeGendre, the backup quarterback, led the offensive during Maryland’s final drive. He made all four pass attempts, and the Terps’ 76-yard ride was the longest of the night. In these circumstances, however, it makes little sense to compare quarterbacks with a drive – four minutes left and the opponent is 40 points clear of substitute defenders on the field.
Tagovailoa played well on his first run, leading Maryland within the 20-yard line with short passes. He completed 6 out of 7 attempts, with an 11 yard pass to Dontay Demus Jr., the longest reception on that drive. Tagovailoa played with confidence, and the offensive moved effortlessly across the field. These early games are written before the game and are the ones the staff and Tagovailoa are most familiar with performing. After the opening series, Tagovailoa’s offense never lasted more than 31 meters.
When asked why the offensive had difficulty finding a rhythm after the opening series, Redshirt second recipient Jeshaun Jones said: “Just don’t take what the defense gave us.”
Locksley said he thought “the game in progress was efficient early on, but just not consistent enough.” Senior Jake Funk added a 24-yard carry to the pass-heavy first ride. But during the other eight trips from Tagovailoa, the Terps only generated 42 rushing yards, not including the 24 yards lost from two sacks. Behind Tagovailoa, Maryland attempted 27 passes (including sacks) and 14 rushes.
Maryland relied on Funk (six stretcher for 35 yards) and newbie Isaiah Jacobs (six stretcher for 15 yards) with the senior Tayon Fleet-Davis for reasons stemming from last season when he was accused of being a vehicle with a disability having driven. Locksley said he hoped Fleet-Davis would be available against Minnesota.
Despite the problems in the passing game, Maryland’s offensive line, which had major concerns for the season, provided solid protection. The Terps have strong receivers, led by Demus and Jones, both of whom have been attacked six times by Tagovailoa.
“I just have to shorten my timing with the receivers,” said Tagovailoa. “You were there. I just missed you. I think we can keep working on it and we will certainly get better.”
The sales, Locksley said, are correctable. Tagovailoa overturned rookie receiver Rakim Jarrett on first interception. With the other two, he threw the field into double cover.
The way Tagovailoa responded to the loss and his desire to develop and improve “is the expectation I have of quarterbacks,” Locksley said. Within the program, Locksley differentiates between jobs and professions. A job is what you do from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A job is who you are around the clock.
“And Lia is one of those who treat quarterback playing as a profession,” Locksley said. “He’s one of those guys, he takes a lot of notes. He is a student. “
Locksley is used to this from his quarterbacks – a list of players that includes two Heisman Trophy finalists, Jalen Hurts, and Tagovailoa’s older brother Tua, whom Locksley coached as offensive coordinator in Alabama. The way Tagovailoa approaches the game fits in with these “greats,” according to Locksley.
“We expect it to rebound,” Locksley said. “What I expect is to take personal responsibility. Second, make the corrections based on what we taped and what we are teaching as the coaching staff. And he’s already started these things. “