Hoosiers visit a Terrapins team that’s a lot like themselves
Relying on youth in their quest to build a winning program, Indiana coach Tom Allen and Terrapins first-year coach Michael Locksley understand that much work must be done before their teams can compete with the big boys in one of the nation’s strongest football conferences.
For now, the objective is to win enough games to earn a bowl bid while providing all those freshmen and sophomores the experience they’ll need to develop into major contributors.
The process continues Saturday, when the Hoosiers (4-2, 1-2) and Terrapins (3-3, 1-2) clash in a matchup of teams in the bottom quadrant of the Big Ten East.
“We have a goal here of what we want to accomplish with this program and where we want to take this program, and it’s a step-by-step process of getting there,” Allen said. “Next step is, obviously, got one Saturday.”
Coming off a 35-0 win over Rutgers, the Hoosiers bring a roster filled with 53 freshmen, 27 sophomores and only 13 seniors to College Park. Indiana lost its only true road game of the season, at Michigan State, and has dropped four straight on the road overall. The Hoosiers are 2-8 in conference away games during Allen’s three seasons.
“We’re still a young enough team that the struggle is the consistency,” Allen said.
Both the Hoosiers and Terps have experienced blowout wins and lopsided defeats.
Indiana beat Eastern Illinois 52-0 on Sept. 7, then absorbed a 51-10 lashing by Ohio State the following week. Maryland won its first two games by a combined 122 points but has since lost to Penn State 59-0 and at Purdue 40-14 last week.
“Our Achilles heel is just getting the consistency out of our team and all of our players,” Locksley said. “It’s up to us as coaches and myself as the leader to find a way to get the consistency where we want it to be.”
OFF THE GROUND
Playing Rutgers last week helped the Hoosiers finally get their running game off the ground.
And after Purdue logged a season-high 127 yards rushing against the Terrapins, Allen hopes that Stevie Scott‘s 12-carry, 165-yard performance could be just what Indiana needs to build some momentum for the second half of the season.
“It’s a grit piece, a stay-the-course piece, and perseverance and doing the right things over and over and over again,” Allen said. “That’s the same thing I said to Stevie — just keep doing what you’re doing.”
The Terrapins will again start Tyrrell Pigrome at quarterback while Josh Jackson deals with a high ankle sprain he sustained two weeks ago at Rutgers.
Maryland’s strength on offense is its running game, but Anthony McFarland Jr. and Javon Leake have been bothered by injuries. Earlier this season, running back Lorenzo Harrison and Jake Funk were lost for the season.
McFarland hasn’t been able to practice for weeks because of a high ankle sprain, and last week he gained only four yards on four carries.
“Some of the swelling is out,” Locksley said. “We’ll see how he feels on Saturday.”
The catalyst for Indiana’s offense this season has been receiver Whop Philyor.
He leads the Hoosiers with 41 receptions for 553 yards, nearly double the totals of the next closest receiver in those categories. The 5-foot-11 junior is coming off a huge game against the Scarlet Knights, registering 10 catches for 182 yards in a performance that had Indiana fans chanting his name.
The Hoosiers need just two more wins to become bowl eligible, but they’ve been down this path before.
After starting 3-2 in 2017 and 4-1 last year, Indiana came up one win short of earning bowl bids. It could happen again.
The remaining schedule sends the Hoosiers to Nebraska, No. 7 Penn State and rival Purdue with only two more home games — Northwestern and No. 16 Michigan.
Maryland, similarly, lost its last four games last year when needing only one win to become bowl eligible. The Terps still must face Ohio State, Michigan State and Minnesota on the road.