Allegany Communications Sports­­

No, in the end, Saturday was not all that it could have been for Maryland football, but those same Terps fans and boosters who always seem to feel they’re entitled to more, as they did during the Ralph Friedgen years, should not take for granted all that is right now under head coach Michael Locksley.

Maryland’s dominating 42-24 win at Rutgers in the regular-season finale for both Big Ten schools, gave the Terps their second 7-win regular-season in a row and three consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 20 years (yes, the Friedgen years).

Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa passed for a season-high 361 yards to surpass Purdue’s Curtis Painter for the most career passing yardage by a Big Ten quarterback, completing 24 of 31 attempts with three touchdown passes and one rushing to put him at 11,256 passing yards for his career, also passing Purdue’s Drew Brees (you’ve heard of him) along the way.

Tagovailoa entered the game needing 268 yards for the record and had it by halftime, as the Terps scored on their first four possessions to dash to a 28-3 lead.

Sure, there were the usual self-imposed warts along the way, what Maryland football game doesn’t have those? But for a quarterback from the University of Maryland to be in the Big Ten and college football record books, well, it’s kind of a big deal, and should not be taken for granted.

Tagovailoa has thrown multiple touchdowns in a game 24 times in his career, the most of any active player in the conference and now has 76 career touchdown passes and 15 games of at least 300 passing yards.

And for those who are often critical of Tagovailoa’s play (guilty!), and who have those short, entitled memories (not guilty), here is the list of quarterbacks who played in College Park before Tagovailoa came this way: C.J. Brown, Caleb Rowe, Shane Cockerille, Perry Hills, Daxx Garman, Max Bortenschlager, Tyrell Pigrome, Kasim Hill, Ryan Brand, Caleb Henderson, Tyler Desue, Josh Jackson, and Lance LeGendre, not to mention a linebacker and a tight end.

Yes, a linebacker started at quarterback for Maryland. I mean, who can forget lefthander Shawn Petty in 2012 when Maryland went through six quarterbacks, thanks in large part to a rash of ACL injuries at the QB position?

Oh, and Petty’s backup? He was the tight end.

So not only has Tagovailoa put Maryland in the record books and engineered three winning seasons in a row, he has provided stability at the position, as has Locksley at the position of head coach; and with Maryland’s seventh win of the season, the position becomes even more stable, as Locksley’s contract automatically extended to another year through the 2028 season as part of the extension the school and Locksley agreed to last year.

Keeping in mind where the Maryland football program was when Locksley walked in the door, it’s very well deserved. When he arrived in 2019, Maryland had completed four straight losing seasons and was on the brink of elimination following the heat stroke death of lineman Jordan McNair. Under Locksley, the Terps have posted their best three-season run in decades and if they win their bowl game, it will be the first time in program history for winning bowl games three years in a row.

Locksley has brought respectability back to the program. His players graduate and regularly go to the NFL. As for the bowl game, that will likely be known in the next week with the Las Vegas Bowl and Reliaquest Bowl (Arizona) being the most commonly mentioned spots for the Terps.

Again, this football season has not been without its moments, as Maryland is about a dozen plays away from being a top 15 team. The losses to Illinois and Northwestern are the big stains on the season, as the Terps were two-touchdown favorites entering both.

Maryland was also close to beating Michigan last week, and was leading Ohio State at the half with a Tagovailoa pick-six and a horrible in-game decision just before the half to not kick the field goal. And, of course, the Terps were crushed by Penn State once again.

Maryland has made great strides, clearly, but there is still a long way to go, as the Terps haven’t beaten a top-5 team since 2004, a top-10 team since 2008 and are 0-34 against ranked Big Ten opponents since joining the league in 2014.

Maryland has athletes flying around the field in every game. They can athlete with any team in the Big Ten, but the Big Ten is far different up front, as Maryland finds out each season against Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.

Maryland would be one of the best teams in the ACC today, and that is a credit to Locksley’s recruiting and the Big Ten Conference itself. But Locksley has to take that recruiting to the offensive and defensive lines, where Maryland has yet to field the Big Ten personnel that is necessary.

And, oh, yes. Following the bowl game, he’s going to have to go at it without Taulia Tagovailoa, the most prolific passer in Big Ten history …

Which is not something to be taken for granted.

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]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT