- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Homecoming week on the Maryland campus provides a time for Terrapins coach Mike Locksley to get his program’s first win in a month Saturday against Indiana.

It’s also an opportunity for the Terrapins to honor a team and coach whose success Locksley hopes to emulate on his own accord in College Park.

“Football creates a brotherhood that transcends through generations, and we have an opportunity for some of our former players to come back,” Locksley said. “It’s our job to … go out and put a product on the field that these people coming back here to campus can be proud of.”

The Terrapins (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten) should get a boost from the return of former coach Ralph Friedgen and members of the 2001 team. The 2001 team will be honored during the game, which also marks the 20th anniversary of Maryland’s last conference championship when it was a member of the ACC.

Two-time consensus All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson will also be honored ahead of his College Football Hall of Fame induction in December.

Locksley noted the irony of honoring the 2001 team, as he had a hand in putting it together as recruiting coordinator. He still draws inspiration from Friedgen, the third-winningest coach in program history. Locksley calls Friedgen “a great mentor” and has adopted his mantra of coaching players not to lose.

“That’s where I kind of find myself with this team, teaching them how not to lose,” Locksley said, “and I’ve got a great experience from being under a guy like Ralph Friedgen that I have so much respect for.”

Saturday’s main test is Indiana (2-5, 0-4), which was ranked in the preseason for only the second time in program history after a surprising pandemic season. But the Hoosiers have come back to earth in 2021.

“If you just sit back and look at a team’s record, I don’t always think it tells the story,” Locksley said.

Much of that is due to a brutal schedule coupled with key injuries. All five of the Hoosiers’ losses have come to ranked teams, including to No. 2 Cincinnati on Sept. 18. Add in a shoulder injury to star quarterback Michael Penix on Oct. 2 against Penn State and a foot injury to backup Jack Tuttle last week against Ohio State.

Indiana coach Tom Allen said both Penix and Tuttle are “week to week” and didn’t disclose whether either would be available against the Terrapins. If neither can go, the Hoosiers would be down to freshman Donaven McCulley under center. 

“We have to prepare for all of them, whoever may play,” Maryland defensive back Tarheeb Still said. “You can’t not prepare for one of the guys, then they show up and be the starter.”

Locksley found some satisfaction in looking back on last Saturday’s loss at Minnesota, saying there were opportunities in the margins for Maryland to have stayed in the game that weren’t taken advantage of.

“I’m encouraged as we get ready for Indiana that when you look at the tape, if you can just find a way to correct the one mistake here on each play … the effort is still there,” Locksley said.

The coach also defended his quarterback, saying it was the best junior Taulia Tagovailoa has looked in a few weeks while making “big time throws” and “great decisions.”

“I thought this game he’s as close to what he’s been, but you also have to realize some of the pieces aren’t around him, and that’s where I think we all, coaches included, have to make sure we understand that we’ve gotta do and call things and execute things based on who’s out there,” Locksley said.

Tagovailoa fumbled on the first drive against Minnesota but didn’t throw an interception for the first time in four games. He also acknowledged that cleaning up mistakes like that can boost his team’s confidence.

“There was no question about our effort, but watching the film, we’re just one block away, one throw away, one catch away,” Tagovailoa said.

The Terrapins will have freshman linebacker Branden Jennings back in a bigger role after he missed a couple of weeks due to injury and only seeing a few snaps against Minnesota. Locksley said the four-star recruit isn’t yet 100%, and his playing time will increase as he gets more comfortable.

For Maryland, the game is likely only one of two the Terrapins are expected to be favored in for the remainder of the season. The season finale at winless-in-the-conference Rutgers being the other. Maryland started this week as a three-point favorite, a line that has since grown to five.

Locksley addressed his struggles to find a win over the last month in a tongue-in-cheek way, saying the upcoming Halloween weekend might not be the best time for him to receive a knock on the door.

“We’re on a three game losing streak so I’m a little bit nervous to let somebody come knock on my door,” Locksley said “We may just leave [candy] out front and just let them grab what they want.”

• George Gerbo can be reached at ggerbo@washingtontimes.com.

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