Minnesota, Maryland each seek first victory
In this hurry-up of a season the Big Ten Conference is playing over the next seven weeks, there’s no time for losing streaks, something Minnesota and Maryland are keenly aware of heading into Friday night’s prime-time meeting in College Park, Md.
Both squads — Minnesota (0-1) and Maryland (0-1) — are eager to reverse Week One’s fortunes.
No. 13 Michigan pummeled Minnesota 49-24, as the Golden Gophers were missing some key pieces from last year’s 11-2 team that won seven conference games for the first time ever. Coach P.J. Fleck didn’t want to make excuses after the Wolverines clawed the team, but the once-mighty 2019 defense was missing seven starters from a year ago. In addition, two offensive linemen and some key special-teams figures also sat out with injuries or unspecified issues on top of graduation losses.
“It’s 2020, everybody’s playing with what you have,” said Fleck, whose team dropped from No. 21 to out of the AP Top 25 poll. “Some (absences) are worse than others, but there’s no excuses whatsoever. … That’s hard, but the other guys got to step in, to step up.”
Minnesota’s real issue Saturday was the Michigan defense, which seemed to set up shop in the Gophers’ backfield. The Wolverines had five sacks of quarterback Tanner Morgan and on the back end kept star receiver Rashod Batemon out of the end zone, though the pro prospect still had nine catches for 101 yards.
The rebuilding Minnesota defense also struggled, and saw the Wolverines score five first-half touchdowns and miss a couple of field goal attempts as they marched up and down the field. Minnesota yielded 481 total yards in the game.
Maryland, which lost its season opener for the first time in 11 years, didn’t fare any better at resurgent Northwestern. The Wildcats took the Terrapins 43-3, rolling up 325 yards rushing and 537 total yards.
Maryland looked good early with Alabama transfer quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa taking the Terps right down the field for a field goal and an early lead. But a couple of interceptions and Maryland’s inability to slow the Wildcats turned the tide.
The Terrapins couldn’t keep up, mustering just 201 total yards (4.1 per play), 14 first downs and Tagovailoa’s three picks.
“Obviously, this is still his first career start in college and so he made some mistakes,” said Maryland coach Mike Locksley. “He’s one of those players that he doesn’t make the same mistake twice so I would expect that he’ll continue to improve.”
As should the entire team, which has only seven scholarship seniors and over 50 new faces on the roster this season. Receivers Dontay Demus Jr., with four catches for 41 yards, and Jeshaun Jones, who had five grabs for 37 yards, got off to good starts. Senior running back Tayon Fleet-Davis, who sat out the first week as part of a suspension from last season, could be back this week.
On the other side, Minnesota tailback Mohamed Ibrahim ground out 140 yards on 26 carries and had two touchdowns. He’s sure to attract a lot of attention from a Maryland defense led by linebacker Chance Campbell, who had 15 total tackles at Northwestern.
The Terrapins have lost eight straight games, dating to last year, all in conference. They will travel to Penn State Nov. 7.
The Gophers, who have won 15 of their last 20 games, travel to Illinois that day.
–Field Level Media