- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 6, 2022

With a win Saturday, Maryland would move to 5-1 for the first time in nearly a decade. Here’s this week’s “Terps Top Three” headed into a home matchup with Purdue.

Double vision: Don’t be fooled when watching Maryland and Purdue’s offensive units this Saturday (noon, Big Ten Network): Both starting quarterbacks have put up strikingly similar numbers in recent seasons. 

The Boilermakers’ Aidan O’Connell and the Terrapins’ Taulia Tagovailoa are two of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. And although their offensive styles differ, they’ve nearly matched each other pass for pass.

Over the last two seasons, O’Connell has produced 4,911 passing yards and 36 touchdowns in his 16 games played. In two more games, Tagovailoa has thrown for 5,276 yards and 34 touchdowns. The pair are also two of the most accurate quarterbacks in college football, with O’Connell completing 69.7% of his passes and Tagovailoa connecting at a 70.8% clip.

Injury updates: Maryland coach Mike Locksley told reporters Thursday that starting linebacker Ruben Hyppolite will remain a game-time decision. Hyppolite’s been dealing with an ankle injury sustained in the win over SMU, and has missed the Terrapins’ last two games.

Locksley also noted that Dontay Demus “has created a lot of value” for Maryland in run-blocking schemes and being the leader of Maryland’s receiver room, even if his offensive numbers aren’t as gaudy as they were before his season-ending knee injury last year.

Through Maryland’s first four games in 2021, the District native tallied 507 yards and 3 touchdowns before his injury Saturday against Iowa. In working his way back in 2022, Demus has only 9 receptions for 85 yards and no scores.

“Is he 100%? Probably not,” Locksley said. “But with each game, I see him continuing to get bigger, better, stronger. And I would imagine as we get into the meat of this run here, he’ll play a major, major role in how we play offense.”

Family matters: Our national passion for football is insatiable. Even if we see things happen on the field that may produce a visceral reaction in the negative, the collective conscience of fans typically moves on to the next play, game, or critique. And sometimes we forget there’s a person and a family behind that facemask we see on television or in a stadium. 

Those realities hit home over the past week for Tagovailoa, who, like the rest of America, watched his brother, Tua, be carted off the field with a head injury in the first half of the Miami Dolphins game last Thursday at Cincinnati. 

The emotional pressures on Taulia, watching from afar preparing for a game with Michigan State, were immense, admitting it was hard for him to get his mind off of what happened.

“I was watching the game with my [extended] family [from Virginia], and watching the play, when things like that happen with my brother, it’s hard for me to kind of cope with things like that,” he said.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day.”

Taulia had his teammates to carry him through the hours between Tua’s injury and Maryland’s win over Michigan State. Taulia finally heard from his brother on Friday night and flew down to South Florida to spend a few hours with him following Maryland’s win.

He told me he‘s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday and win,” Taulia said. “After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine and stuff again.”

The way the third-year quarterback was able to handle an incredibly difficult situation within such a short timeframe speaks to the character of Taulia and his family, as well as the family atmosphere Locksley has cultivated among his players and staff — one that’s also contributed to the Terrapins’ success through five games this season.


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

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