Indiana kicked off as an 10.5-point underdog. Only a few people expected them to win. Yet, after holding a fourth quarter home lead, and seeing an injury knock Taulia Tagovailoa out of the game, the Hoosiers (3-4, 1-3 B1G) fell to Maryland (5-2, 2-2 B1G), 38-33.
Prior to the game, TE AJ Barner and CB Jaylin Williams, deemed “game-time decisions” per Tom Allen, were not dressed out for the game. WR D.J. Matthews did participate in warmups and was active. Maryland also had two absences, as all-Big Ten corner Jakorian Bennett and projected first-round 2023 NFL Draft LT Jaelyn Duncan missed the contest.
Any chance of an encouraging start were extinguished immediately. On IU’s first play from scrimmage, QB Connor Bazelak lofted a pass over starting TE Aaron Steinfeldt, intercepted by DB Tarheeb Still. Bazelak has thrown an interception in six of seven games this year, with WKU the lone exception.
Maryland’s offense, which ranked 16th in the country per the SP+ ratings, wasted little time in converting the turnover into points. Tagovailoa, Maryland’s star QB, rushed in from three yards out to give the Terrapins the lead.
Indiana’s offensive line, under Rod Carey’s guidance, showed many of the same issues early in the game. Carey started the same five linemen from IU’s previous contest and didn’t experience different results. IU gave up two sacks in five first quarter pass attempts. They turned things around, not conceding a sack the rest of the game.
Trailing 14-3, and facing a smattering of boos from the home faithful, Allen went for a 4th-and-1 attempt from his own 42, and the offensive line pushed forward to help Shaun Shivers move the chains. After going 2-of-11 on 4th down entering this game, IU converted two 4th-and-1 attempts in the first half.
Three plays later, Bazelak made one of his best plays of the season. Taking the snap from under center, Bazelak stepped up in the pocket and under duress, he found Josh Henderson on the run for a 44-yard touchdown close to the left sideline. It was Henderson’s third TD reception of the season, and Bazelak’s 10th passing score.
After IU’s defense held the Terps, the Hoosiers vaulted into the lead.
Maryland, who was the more penalty-prone team all day, committed multiple infractions to put IU into scoring range. Then Walt Bell called a trick play.
Bazelak took the snap and handed it to Jaylin Lucas, who flipped it to Donaven McCulley, who found Bazelak down the sideline for 23 yards. Bazelak then threw a perfect fade to Camper for six.
Maryland’s Octavian Smith returned the opening kick of the second half into IU territory, and Tagovailoa would find the end zone shortly thereafter, to Dontay Demus. After three seasons that vaulted Demus into the NFL Draft conversation, that was his first score of the year.
Bazelak gave it right back to the Terps. On a play-action call from Walt Bell, during which Bazelak had a clean pocket, he lofted a sideline pass to a well-guarded Andison Coby. Deonte Banks picked off the pass, and Maryland took over at midfield.
Maryland turned the takeaway into three points to go up 24-17.
After much chagrin over IU’s second half struggles at Nebraska and vs. Michigan, the Hoosiers scored their first second half points since the Cincinnati game. A 17-play drive ended with a Charles Campbell field goal to draw IU within 24-20. IU’s defense then produced a three-and-out.
Bazelak roped a back shoulder pass to Cam Camper on the final play of the third quarter to put IU at the six, and two plays later, Henderson forced his way in from two yards out. IU held their first fourth quarter lead since the Idaho game (IU’s only second half lead against WKU came in OT).
With 12:01 to go, Tagovailoa fell to the ground, holding his right knee, after pressure and unintentional contact from James Head Jr. Tagovailoa was carted off the field. Maryland punted on the drive.
In his first full possession. Maryland’s backup QB, Billy Edwards Jr., orchestrated a touchdown drive, buoyed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Devon Matthews. RB Roman Hemby found paydirt from six yards.
IU’s third turnover of the game crippled their chances of victory. After a big kick return by Lucas, Andison Coby fumbled the football after picking up a first down on 2nd-and-1. Coby was devastated on the sideline, consoled by Matthews.
Edwards led Maryland to the end zone again, giving his team a double-digit lead. On 3rd-and-9, Hemby gashed IU’s defense for a 46-yard run, and Edwards finished the possession. Maryland cashed in IU’s three turnovers for 17 points, easily the difference in the game.
After consecutive tipped completions, Bazelak connected with Aaron Steinfeldt to bring IU within one score. It was the first career TD for the freshman from Bloomington North HS.
Maryland would recover the ensuing onside kick to clinch the victory.
Indiana’s next game is Saturday at Rutgers, at noon, on BTN. The Hoosiers fell to Rutgers last season in Bloomington, 38-3. Rutgers is winless in conference play this season and had a bye week this past week.
Photo by The Bloomingtonian