The fact that Brock Walker missed the extra point that would have sent the Gophers into double overtime at Maryland is, by definition, the reason why his team lost the game.
But there are many other entries below that in this dictionary that give many meanings to the Gophers’ collective failure in the 45-44 loss Friday night at Capital One Field.
For the second consecutive game, special teams buckled, the defense buckled, and the offense — minus a dynamic showing from running back Mohamed Ibrahim — plodded. And this time, it caused the Gophers (0-2) to match the number of losses they had all of last season. They were favored by 20 points against a Maryland team that lost its opener 43-3 at Northwestern.
“There is plenty of opportunity. There’s plenty of blame to go around and plenty of plays to go around,” coach P.J. Fleck said of Walker, who’d made all his kicks this season despite recovering from sports hernia surgery. “That’s not the reason why we lost the game.”
The defense allowed Maryland 675 total offensive yards, including stout performances from quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, who threw for 394 yards and three touchdowns on near 75% accuracy, and running back Jake Funk, who ran for 221 yards and a score, plus another receiving touchdown.
In Fleck’s own words, the team dug itself a “huge, massive, crater hole” at the start, allowing Maryland to score on its first two drives.
Ibrahim’s 207 yards on 41 carries with four touchdowns, while gargantuan, weren’t enough to ensure a win. But those first-half touchdowns did match a Gophers record for rushing scores in a game and launched the Gophers into the lead for the first time, part of a stretch of 31 uninterrupted points for the Gophers through the second and third quarters.
But then Maryland stole back the momentum, amassing a string of 24 points and forcing a fateful overtime.
For Ibrahim, his solid performance — maybe the Gophers’ only bright spot this season so far — isn’t any consolation.
“I don’t think you can separate it, my success and the team’s success,” Ibrahim said. “We’re all one. You know, we’re doing whatever we can to bring it all together.”
Receiver Chris Autman-Bell caught only one pass to star Rashod Bateman’s nine in the season opener but put together four catches for 112 yards against Maryland, including a 39-yard touchdown. Quarterback Tanner Morgan went 10-for-15 for 189 yards and one touchdown.
“It’s two games down. We have six left, plus one,” Fleck said. “ … We didn’t deserve to win the football game tonight. And they’re going take all this knowledge, and I expect us to get better this week.”
Morgan said the goal is to always start fast, accelerate in the middle and finish strong. Against the Terrapins, only that second feat came to fruition.
“We’re in a situation right now where you either have to accept it or, you know, you can’t get past it or whatnot,” Morgan said. “But we just have to be able to be resilient and develop that thick skin, to be able to take it, swallow it, like Coach said, and respond.
“Because I can guarantee you we will respond from today.”
Megan Ryan did not travel to Maryland for Saturday’s game. She wrote this account after watching the television broadcast and participating in interviews via videoconference.