An iceberg has loomed in front of Maryland football for over a month.
A four-game losing streak forced the Terps to stare at an unwelcome possibility that grew with each game: being stuck one win short of bowl eligibility and missing the postseason for the first time since 2020.
Failing to get that all-important sixth win would’ve popped the balloon of optimism coach Michael Locksley painstakingly filled through his first four seasons and prompted serious questions about the long-term viability of his plan for the Terps.
But, on Saturday, Maryland yanked the wheel and swerved away from disaster, clearing the doomsday scenario when kicker Jack Howes’ walk-off, 24-yard field goal sealed a 13-10 victory at Nebraska.
“We’re very much in high spirit right now,” Howes said. “We’re going bowling. You can’t be mad about that.”
The game-winner came after a 12-play, 75-yard drive, both game highs for Maryland on an otherwise dreary offensive day.
Thirty-six of those yards came from Roman Hemby, who powered a resurgent Terps run game. Maryland ran for 101 yards, all in the second half, a week after having a negative total against Penn State.
Hemby had 16 attempts and finished with 74 yards, the most he’s had in both categories since early September. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa added 38 yards on four rushes.
The Terps knew it would be tough to run early, Locksley said, and they used a high-tempo attack to wear down Nebraska’s defense.
“The thing we needed to do was continue to pound at it,” he said. “... At the end of it, our team got stronger. The run game got going when we most needed it.”
Tagovailoa captained the offense to an up-and-down performance. He arced a beautiful pass down the right sideline to Tai Felton for 53 yards near the end of the first half and followed it with a score to Felton on the next play. But the quarterback also had an ugly interception, his third straight game throwing a pick.
Thankfully for the Terps, Nebraska was the worse offender in that department.
The Cornhuskers played three quarterbacks, losing their starter to an injury in the first half and benching their backup after two interceptions.
The teams combined for eight turnovers, five punts and three turnovers on downs. According to Game on Paper’s expected points added metric, which models how many points each play adds based on down, distance and other game factors, the average offensive play lost points for the team running it Saturday.
Nebraska’s third-string quarterback, Chubby Purdy, entered in the fourth quarter and led the team on an impressive drive in his first few snaps. The Cornhuskers made it to Maryland’s 7-yard-line with under four minutes left in the game and seemed ready to jump back into the lead.
Instead, Purdy threw directly to Terps cornerback Tarheeb Still to nullify the scoring threat and set up Maryland’s winning drive. Maryland forced five takeaways and finished with a positive turnover margin for the first since Sept. 30.
“I can’t give enough credit to our defense,” Locksley said. “They created a bunch of turnovers, they kept playing with their back against the wall and, when we needed them to get us the ball back, they got us the ball back.”
Locksley’s team also came well short of perfection. It committed 10 penalties for 92 yards, including an unnecessary roughness on Corey Dyches before the end of the first half that shoved it out of field goal range.
That of course frustrated the coach, but after weeks of losses he chose to view it as an example of the adversity his team overcame to win and extend its season.
“Nothing seemed to go our way today,” he said. “But you know what? That’s how it’s been around here. Nothing has been easy for us. Everything we do, we have to fight through everything. That’s why I’m proud of this team.”