MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Tuesday was a good day for University of Maryland football as head coach Michael Locksley announced the right knee injury quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa suffered Saturday in the Terps’ 38-31 win at Indiana to be an aggravation of the sprained MCL he initially suffered in the Michigan game.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Tagovailoa was listed on the Maryland depth chart as the starter for Saturday’s home game against Northwestern, but Locksley said the quarterback’s availability would be a gametime decision.

It is obviously good news because when the injury took place, the quarterback reacted in a way that had all connected to the Terps fearing much worse as Tagovailoa was taken from the field on a cart. After the game, Locksley mentioned Tagovailoa had taken part in the team’s postgame celebration so there was cause for hope, and that hope came to fruition with Tuesday’s announcement.

Tagovailoa has passed for 2,001 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions this season and his 285.9 passing yards per game ranks third in the Big Ten. Maryland, at 34.6 points per game, has the third highest scoring offense in the Big Ten.

As the Terps’ starter the past three seasons, Tagovailoa has been the man at quarterback and not only has provided the Terps with performance, but much needed stability. For the previous decade, Maryland had been plagued by instability and injuries in being forced into 25 in-season starting quarterback changes. Remember when linebackers were taking turns at quarterback? The saddest part was they weren’t the worst the Terps had been sending out there.

Tagovailoa has broken school records and is approaching the program’s record for career passing yards, as his 6,872 yards at Maryland is second in school history to Scott Milanovich’s 7,301. Last season, Tagovailoa broke the school’s season-single passing record with 3,860 yards.

It would seem the timing of the Tagovailoa injury is good timing for Maryland. The Terps (5-2 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) will host Northwestern (1-5, 1-2), possibly the worst team in the conference, which has not always been a good thing for Maryland. Perhaps Locksley will choose to start back-up Billy Edwards Jr. against the Wildcats with a bye week coming next week, potentially giving Tagovailoa two weeks to recover.

Historically, of course, things that appear obvious are rarely obvious or easy when it comes to Maryland, but Edwards, who Locksley said takes 40 percent of the snaps during the normal practice week, has performed well when he’s gone in for Tagovailoa against Michigan and then Saturday at Indiana. In fact, the redshirt freshman transfer from Wake Forest engineered the Terps to the comeback win over the Hoosiers.

The season has gone well thus far for Maryland at 5-2, and while there is no point in crying over spilled milk, the Terps are this close to being 6-1. However, an absolutely horrible no-call on Purdue on a Maryland extra point attempt and a very questionable penalty that nullified what had been a successful two-point conversion proved to be the catalyst then the security blanket for the Boilermakers win. The initial extra-point attempt could have put Maryland up by seven in the final minutes, but it was blocked by a Purdue end who had lined up offside in a manner that was clearly obvious to everybody other than the official who did not call it.

I don’t know if Maryland is still being forced to pay an unspoken newcomer’s fee by Big Ten football officials or if they’re just clearly every bit as bad as Big 12 officials, but Maryland is victimized most weeks by phantom calls, non-calls and calls by officials that are just horribly wrong. This was once again painfully clear last Saturday in the Terps’ win in Bloomington.

It is also clear each week these calls are a source of frustration for Locksley and Athletic Director Damon Evans, but both take the high road and say nothing publicly about the calls, Evans saying he deals with it privately through the Big Ten office.

That said, Maryland still has a very real penalty problem of its own without the help of Big Ten officiating. Earlier in the season, Locksley said it would be handled in practice, and the Terps had it cleaned up at Michigan with a penalty-free game. Too many frustrating and costly penalties, though, have continued to take place since then, the frustrating part being most of them come before the ball is even snapped or away from the play, making them completely unnecessary and seemingly correctable.

Maryland has a good football team, an appealingly good football team. It’s quite comforting and at the same time exciting to know this for the first time since the Friedgen years. Without the self-inflicted damage being done by the Terps themselves a big, fat payday from an upper-tier bowl game is a distinct possibility.

It’s up to Maryland, though, to take the lead in determining that.

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