MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Maryland was never in danger last Saturday when it beat Buffalo, 31-10, in its season opener at Maryland Stadium, which is a good thing; and while there wasn’t anything about the day that could be checked off as being a bad thing, such as injuries, there are still some familiar shenanigans taking place with the Terps that are more worrisome than any of the first-game blips that were bound to happen and then did.

Though there were moments of frustration, there should not yet be cause for alarm on the part of the unsettled play of quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, who put up nice numbers, going 24 for 34 for 290 yards, but who missed some throws, was inaccurate on others and who did not throw a touchdown pass for the first time since his first college start.

Redshirt freshman Roman Hemby rushed for 114 yards on seven carries, including a 70-yard touchdown run, and Maryland’s defense tightened up to hold Buffalo to 95 yards in the second half.

It was clear pretty early that Maryland would be able to run on the Bulls, and while some Terps fans were becoming antsy (ahem) that the Terps weren’t running more, the truth is the run game was going to be there regardless. That was established, so why not work on some things in the first game? They will certainly need to work on them in the second game.

In the first half, Tagovailoa made a bad throw under pressure and missed hitting an open Tai Felton for what should have been an 80-yard touchdown pass in the first half. He airmailed a ball in the second half that resulted in a Buffalo interception, but he did make some nice throws, including to Jeshaun Jones for a third-down conversion. Yet he missed badly to Jones on a sideline pattern later in the game.

When he followed that with a perfect throw to Rakim Jarrett, the receiver dropped it; so Tagovailoa was not alone in frustration.

Most frustrating, though, of the Terps’ performance were the ongoing penalties and the lack of discipline the team continues to play with. Maryland was penalized eight times for 82 yards, and against a team that was overmatched in talent, that many unforced infractions cannot take place. Yet they continue to take place.

Clear pass interference, holding on third down, a kickoff out of bounds, being offsides on a missed field goal, illegal hands to the face …

“We’re going to need to be more consistent and again find a way to stop being so penalized … Just the consistency,” head coach Michael Locksley said.

Agreed. In fact, we’ve been in agreement on that after too many Maryland games, regardless of who the players are in the Maryland uniforms.

How many times have we heard Locksley say after games that most of the penalties are correctable, that they can be corrected in practice? Well, when is the Maryland coaching staff going to get around to correcting them?

A team like Maryland can get away with those penalties against a 24-point underdog such as Buffalo and likely can this week against a 27-point underdog in Charlotte, but those penalties are the last thing this team wants or needs in games like these because it only breeds habit and carryover for the rest of the games on the schedule that determine the season.

Maryland’s season last year – a 7-6 record following a blowout win over Virginia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl – was fantastic for Terps fans, players and coaches. But if not for stupid penalties – unforced errors as they call them in tennis – and some weird, out of the blue play-calling, the season could have been one of even more opportunity.

Maryland is nowhere near being a contender for the top echelon of Big Ten football, but given what Locksley is establishing with the talent base he is building in College Park and the national footprint he has long carried in recruiting, Maryland could very soon be one of the programs in the top half of the Big Ten as far as national name recognition and better and better bowl games on a consistent basis.

If you look at Maryland’s football history, you see that it can be done, because it has been done. Thing is, it’s just more difficult to do as a member of the Big Ten than it is to do as a member of the ACC. At the same time, when it is achieved in Big Ten football, short of winning the national title, it carries far more weight than it does when it is achieved in the ACC.

(And no offense to the ACC intended … Well, that’s not true. I don’t like the ACC.)

What a missed opportunity and a crying shame it would be if the ongoing stupid, silly penalties and lack of discipline on the field should stunt, then prevent, the growth and momentum Locksley is building within the community and around the country for Maryland football.

It can be so close they could taste it. If they just bothered to take care of the little things.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT