Maryland has had one of the most infamous quarterback situations in recent college football history.
The Terps have drawn from a wide rolodex of quarterbacks. At one point, they turned to a true freshman linebacker to captain their offense. That ever-present instability defined the program for a long stretch.
But Maryland, 10 seasons into joining a Big Ten that’s in its 128th, now boasts the conference’s all-time leader in passing yards in Taulia Tagovailoa. The redshirt senior, who said he’ll likely play in Maryland’s bowl game, entered Saturday’s game against Rutgers — perhaps his last with the Terps — needing 268 yards to vault from fourth to the top spot held by Curtis Painter.
He got it in the first half of Maryland’s 42-24 win in Piscataway. The win gave the Terps a seven-win regular season for the second straight year, their first time doing so since 2013-14. It also triggered a one-year extension for coach Michael Locksley, whose contract will now run through 2028.
“It’s just a blessing. It was awesome for us seniors that we can end the regular season the right way,” Tagovailoa said. “We came here in New Jersey on a mission, and we came through.”
The record itself came in anticlimactic fashion, a 6-yard screen pass to Jeshaun Jones on third-and-8, but it was merely the deciding blow in a fight won much earlier.
“I didn’t really have any idea of the record, and then at halftime everyone was congratulating me. That’s usually how it goes,” said Tagovailoa, the Terps’ record holder in most passing statistics.
He demonstrated his ability to break this milestone on Maryland’s first drive. The Terps (7-5, 4-5 Big Ten) threw on five of their first seven plays, the last a 34-yard passing touchdown to Tai Felton.
Tagovailoa ran in from 6 yards on Maryland’s second drive and threw two more, a 17-yard screen pass to Roman Hemby and a 44-yard deep shot to Corey Dyches. The quarterback finished the game 24-of-31 for 361 yards and four total touchdowns.
“For a guy that came here under the shadow of a huge last name, to make his own mark here at Maryland but also in the Big Ten, I think speaks volume of the type of character this kid has,” Locksley said. “Really proud of what he’s done in helping us elevate this program.”
The Terps led by 25 midway through the second quarter. Rutgers (6-6, 3-6 Big Ten) mounted a mini surge to cut the deficit to 11 entering halftime but would get no closer.
“To win seven ... to finish strong ... I give credit to the senior leadership in the locker room. I give credit to the staff who did a tremendous job of continuing to coach our guys through that tough stretch we had there in October,” Locksley said, referencing his team’s four-game losing streak.
On Maryland’s opening drive in the second half, Tagovailoa rifled completions of 26 and 20 yards to his tight ends. That set up a Billy Edwards Jr. sneak for a touchdown.
Rutgers countered with a leviathan of a drive. The Scarlet Knights took 14 plays to go 94 yards, running the ball nine times. They fed running back Kyle Monangai for eight of those carries, and he rumbled for 66 yards. Quarterback Gavin Wimsatt sneaked in for the touchdown.
Maryland responded with its own ground attack. Hemby gained 62 yards on his first three carries of the drive. He finished with 113 yards, his first time over a century since Week 2 against Charlotte.
The Terps scored on another Edwards sneak — his fifth touchdown in the last two weeks — on a possession that took over five minutes and sapped any chance of a Rutgers comeback.
“The past couple of weeks, I’ve been like, ‘Let’s go.’ I’ve kind of started walking on the field, predicting that we would call it,” Edwards said of his reaction when a Maryland player gets stopped at the 1-yard line.
The Scarlet Knights’ next drive was a mere formality to run out the clock.
Tagovailoa spent that time, maybe the last moments of his Terps career, grinning and high-fiving with teammates on the sideline. He neared the stands where his family — without brother and Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — congratulated him.
He received a video message from his brother after his press conference, congratulating him on a performance that reestablished himself as the answer to Maryland’s quarterback question and solidified him as part of Big Ten football history.