COLLEGE PARK – After suffering its first loss of the season to No. 3 Ohio State the week before, Maryland’s football team looked to bounce back against Big Ten opponent Illinois on homecoming weekend.
However, the Terrapins looked sloppy against a two-win Fighting Illini team, as it came down to the wire with Illinois (3-4 overall, 1-3 Big 10) leaving College Park with a 27-24 upset victory.
“What happened today had very little to do with Illinois,” said Maryland head coach Michael Locksley. “We didn’t play very well in any of the three phases.”
After starting the season 5-0, the Terrapins (5-2 overall, 3-2 Big 10) dropped their last two games as Maryland enters its bye week.
“I still have a lot of faith in this team,” said Locksley. “Still a lot of football left to be played. All of our goals are still ahead of us.”
Despite the loss, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa finished throwing 27 for 39 for 266 passing yards and two scores.
The Fighting Illini struck first early on when quarterback Luke Altmyer found Pat Bryant deep downfield for a 44-yard touchdown.
Maryland’s defense quickly bounced back as Glendon Miller got an interception off a deflection.
The turnover led to Tagovailoa connecting with linebacker Sean Greeley on a short touchdown pass to tie the game at the end of the first quarter.
Maryland took a 14-7 lead with 5:46 left in the half when Tagovailoa found Kaden Prather in the end zone for a 27-yard score.
But late in the first half, when Maryland looked to capitalize, Prather made a catch but fumbled the ball, allowing Illinois to recover.
Kaden Feagin tied the game for the visitors with a two-yard rushing touchdown moments before halftime.
“We didn’t make the plays we needed to make when it mattered the most,” said Maryland running back Roman Hemby. “This is the turning point for the rest of our season.”
The Fighting Illini added 10 points in the third quarter. First, Altmyer connected with Isaiah Williams for a touchdown. Later in the quarter, Caleb Griffin kicked a field goal to give Illinois a 10-point lead.
However, the Terps began their comeback attempt late in the third quarter when an 11-play offensive drive resulted in Antwain Littleton II scoring from four yards out to cut the deficit to three points.
With 4:19 left in regulation, Maryland drove downfield to set up a Jack Howes 48-yard field goal to tie the game up at 24-24 with 1:31 on the clock.
However, Maryland’s defense could not stop Illinois from driving downfield to set up Griffin to nail a 48-yard kick as time expired.
“You don’t want to lose like that ever,” said Maryland linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II. “Last second field goal to win it, heartbreaking. But we can’t change it now. All we can do is move on and learn from it.”
Maryland returns to the field on Oct. 28 as the Terrapins travel to face Northwestern.
Photo by Michael R. Smith/The Sports Pulse