The Maryland football program is catching some attention through the first five games of the 2022 season after racing to a 4-1 start. The team's only loss was in a one-score game on the road against No. 4 Michigan.
The Terrapins handled its nonconference schedule with ease, tearing through the likes of Buffalo, Charlotte and SMU by scoring an average of over 40 points per game. But when they clashed with the Wolverines to open Big Ten play, three turnovers and a career-high 243 yards from opposing running back Blake Corum proved to be insurmountable in a 34-27 loss inside Michigan Stadium.
The team bounced back last week against Michigan State, taking down the Spartans 27-13 while recording 489 yards of total offense. Redshirt junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa completed 32 of his 41 throws for 314 yards and a touchdown in the win.
"They've got good skill on the outside, a really good quarterback," Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. "They like to throw the ball. Their defense has definitely improved upon last year and done a really good job, and they're a very good overall team. So we've got our hands full."
Even after Purdue took down No. 21 Minnesota 20-10 on the road in Minneapolis, Maryland is favored by three points on its home turf entering the week. The game is scheduled to kick off at noon ET inside SECU Stadium in College Park, Md.
Here's a look at what the Boilermakers must prepare for against the Terrapins and the keys to pulling off back-to-back wins away from West Lafayette:
A balanced passing offense
Entering Week 6, Maryland boasts the Big Ten's second-best passing offense, totaling 302.6 yards passing per game this season.
Tagovailoa has been among the best signal-callers in the conference. He's completed 75.5% of his passing attempts for 1,416 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions on the season for the Terrapins.
Tagovailoa's brother, Tua, was a star quarterback at Alabama who now plays for the Miami Dolphins. The two share similarities in their efficiency and ability to maneuver both in and out of the pocket.
After holding the Big Ten's most potent rushing attack to just 47 yards on the ground last week, Purdue will match up against a completely different style of offense on Saturday.
"This will be totally different than last week. This team will throw the ball," Brohm said. "They like to throw the ball. That's kind of what they like to do. They have a quarterback who's accurate, who can run around and make plays. He plays just like his brother."
Despite having a pass-heavy offense, Maryland does not utilize one receiver that stands head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates. The offense for the Terrapins features four different players with at least 200 yards receiving.
Redshirt senior pass-catcher Jeshaun Jones leads the way with 19 receptions for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but junior Rakim Jarrett isn't far behind. He has a team-high 20 catches, good for 249 receiving yards and two scores.
"Their receiving attack is balanced," Brohm said. "All those guys are catching about the same amount of balls, and they do a good job spreading that around.
The last time Purdue played Maryland, it was a dominating performance that ended in a 40-14 victory inside Ross-Ade Stadium back in 2019. Former Boilermaker Jack Plummer completed 33 of his 41 passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns.
Last season, the Terrapins struggled on the defensive side of the ball. They ranked 13th in the conference by giving up 30.7 points per game and were 12th in total defense.
However, Maryland has made strides in 2022, allowing just 21 points and 392 yards per game even after facing an explosion of offense against Michigan.
Brian Williams was elevated to the role of defensive coordinator in February after joining the program's coaching staff in 2019. He also serves as the team's defensive line coach.
"Schematically, it looks different than when we played them three years ago, way different," Brohm said. "I like their package. It's way more aggressive."
Junior defensive back Beau Brade leads the team with 40 total tackles, including two tackles for loss. He is also second on the team with four pass breakups while also registering a forced fumble.
So far this season, the Terrapins have had nine different players record a sack, led by senior Henry Chibueze. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive lineman also has eight total tackles to his name.
"They've made great progress, so I think they've studied themselves and others, and their package is better and their guys are playing well," Brohm said. "I just think at this point, it's a really good overall team that's playing well together and playing complementary football."
Keys to victory
Purdue football is looking to win on the road in consecutive games for the first time since 2018. A victory would also be the team's seventh away from home since the start of last season.
The Boilermakers have been inconsistent at generating a pass rush, coming away with just nine sacks in the first five games. Even if they can't take down Tagovailoa much on Saturday, the team will need to force the talented passer out of his comfort zone and into mistakes.
Brohm alluded to Maryland's 51-14 loss to Iowa a season ago, when the Hawkeyes allowed just 271 total yards and finished the game with six interceptions despite not recording a sack. Purdue will look to replicate some of that success on defense in order to give itself a chance to win.
"We will have to prepare a little differently, without question, from the last week," Brohm said. "We've got to make sure that we're able to guard and defend. If you look at some of the games in the past, you've got to figure out enough ways to get more pressure on the quarterback than what we've seen lately."
On offense, The Boilermakers will need to orchestrate a clean gameplan with sixth-year quarterback Aidan O'Connell back under center. The sixth-year senior returned from an injury against Minnesota but threw for only 199 yards with two interceptions.
Despite a poor performance, O'Connell has proven to be one of the most proficient passers in the Big Ten. He leads the conference with an average of 299.8 yards through the air per game.
Transfer wide receiver Charlie Jones, also a sixth-year senior, leads the league with 9.4 catches per game, 588 total receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions. He is top-three nationally in all three categories.
But as teams continue trying to prevent Purdue from executing its high-octane passing offense, having a serviceable run game will be crucial to open up plays down the field.
"Teams are playing the pass, and I would as well. We have a really, really talented receiver on the outside and an accurate passer," Brohm said. "We've had the ability to throw up the field, and teams are playing us deeper. They're being smart about it, and we have to be patient and we have to run the ball and we have to pass it in desirable looks and not just in every look."
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