- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 13, 2020

As soon as Artur Sitkowski released the throw, Tarheeb Still broke for the receiver. With just over three minutes left in regulation, the Maryland football cornerback leveled Shameen Jones right as the receiver caught it, forcing a turnover on downs.

If the Terrapins’ offense hadn’t gone three-and-out on the subsequent possession, Still’s play might have sealed Saturday’s contest. Instead, Maryland’s offense stalled, Rutgers got the ball back and marched down the field for the game-tying field goal — eventually winning, 27-24, in overtime.

Even in the loss, though, Still’s play late was reminiscent of what he’s done during each of the four games of his college career. The freshman is a sure-tackler and a major part of Maryland’s pass defense, stepping in after offseason turnover and playing at a high level.

“He came in not knowing how good he really was,” linebacker Fa’Najae Gotay said. “Every day we just tell him, ‘You’re better than you think you are.’”

Still, who arrived as a former three-star recruit, is helping to replace Tino Ellis and Marcus Lewis, who graduated at the end of last season. Still missed Nov. 28’s game against Indiana, but he has broken up a pass in each of his other four contests to go along with at least four tackles.

And Saturday was his best display yet. He finished with seven tackles — the second most on the team — while leading the squad with four breakups.

Still’s play late in the contest, stopping Jones short of the line to gain for a turnover on downs, exemplified his ability to break on the ball. It shows coach Mike Locksley, too, that there are playmakers on his defense despite the unit’s inexperience.

“He’s one of those true freshmen who’s started every game, from Northwestern on,” Locksley said. “Obviously missed some time the last few weeks, but getting him back, he’s a competitive player, and he’s the type of player that we need to build this program around and build this program with. And we will.”

Maryland’s defense impressed early on Saturday, holding Rutgers to 103 yards and forcing seven punts in the first half. But the Scarlet Knights got going after halftime, with six plays of at least 14 yards. The penalties — amassing 120 yards of offenses in the second half — also came back to haunt the Terrapins.

When Maryland faces Michigan State at home next weekend as part of the Big Ten’s Champions Week, Locksley will look at those things — giving up big plays and costly penalties — as areas in which his team needs to improve. The Terrapins had been scheduled to face the Spartans last month, but a coronavirus outbreak within the Maryland program canceled that meeting.

Come next weekend, Still will once more be a major part of the Terrapins’ defensive effort. He’s only played in four college games, yet he’s been an impact player in all of them, proving to be an up-and-coming cornerback who’s as important in the present as he is in the future.

“He comes with a positive attitude every day no matter how long we practice, how much we practice,” Gotay said. “Coming in as a freshman, being out here for quite [an] amount of time, you probably get frustrated with the game and don’t want to be at practice anymore. But I never got that feeling from him, and obviously it shows in the game. He had some PBUs in the game, had some big tackles. He’s just a great player all around.”

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