Gophers lose stunner to Maryland

Minnesota came up short in its second game of the season, falling to Maryland in an overtime thriller.

Gophers+linebacker+Mariano+Sori-Marin+follows+the+ball+at+TCF+Bank+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+24.+Minnesota+fell+to+Michigan+49-24+in+their+first+showing+of+the+season.

Nur B. Adam

Gophers linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin follows the ball at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 24. Minnesota fell to Michigan 49-24 in their first showing of the season.

Paul Hodowanic, Sports Reporter

The Minnesota Gophers lost two games all of last season. Two weeks into the 2020 season, they’ve matched that.

The Maryland Terrapins and quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa ran rampant on Friday night, overcoming a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to upset the Gophers 45-44 in overtime. Tagovailoa threw for 394 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another two, the last of which — a two-yard run — was the game winner.

The Gophers were an extra point from tying the game in overtime following a Seth Green two-yard touchdown run, but kicker Brock Walker missed the kick to seal Minnesota’s fate.

“That is not the reason we lost this football game,” head coach P.J. Fleck said of the kick.  “There was plenty of blame to go around.”

A week after giving up 49 points and 481 yards to Michigan, Minnesota’s defense showed little signs of improvement. Maryland, which mustered only three points in its loss to Northwestern last week, totaled 675 yards of total offense and failed to score on just four drives on Friday.

“It’s unacceptable. With that many yards and that many explosive plays. There’s got to be a lot of accountability that goes around, but that starts with me,” Fleck said. “Everything starts with me.”

The struggles started early for Minnesota. Maryland scored touchdowns on its opening three drives of the game, including a 39-yard touchdown scramble by Tagovailoa and a 76-yard pass from the sophomore quarterback to Jeshaun Jones on back-to-back offensive plays.

Minnesota’s defense appeared to right the ship momentarily in the second and third quarters, holding Maryland scoreless and forcing an interception and fumble. But, the inexperience and youth showed up again in the fourth quarter. Maryland scored 17 consecutive points to tie the game and then scored again on its first drive of overtime.

“We don’t really point fingers on this defense,” said Boye Mafe, who tipped the pass that led to the interception. “We’re ready to fight for the next play. That’s the biggest thing that we can take away from this game. We were ready to fight.”

Much like the defense, which repeated many of its problems from Week 1, Minnesota’s offense replicated many of its successes on Friday. Mohamed Ibrahim ran for 207 yards and four touchdowns, which tied the program record for most rushing touchdowns in one game. Ibrahim’s play kept the Gophers within striking distance in the first half, even leading to a 28-21 Gophers edge at halftime.

“Mo did a phenomenal job,” quarterback Tanner Morgan said. “He ran extremely hard and was able to do a lot of good things for us.

Yet, like the Michigan game, the offense struggled in key moments. Minnesota failed to score in any of its three fourth quarter drives, any of which would’ve put the game out of reach.

“We just have to finish the game better as an offensive unit,” Morgan said.

Coming into the season ranked inside the top-25, expectations were high for another historic year. Now, Minnesota must pick up the pieces of its season following two trying losses. The Gophers head to Illinois next weekend in what is now a must-win game for their Big Ten title hopes.

“We got to get better, and we can’t wait to get back to work,” Fleck said. “Last year doesn’t matter.”