Minnesota overcame a 14-point, first-quarter deficit and built its own 17-point lead before Maryland stormed back to tie Friday’s game late in the fourth quarter, winning 45-44 in overtime on quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa’s 2-yard run.
Seth Green scored on a 2-yard run for the Gophers on overtime, but Brock Walker’s point-after kick was wide.
The first half belonged to Mohamed Ibrahim, who tied a Gophers record with four rushing touchdowns. Ibrahim, a Maryland native, rushed for 207 yards on 41 carries.
“All he does is produce. All he does is keep coming back up,” Fleck has said of Ibrahim previously. “ … All he does is make plays.”
Fleck will take any chance to wax poetic about Ibrahim. How he’s the kind of young man he’d want as a son (or son-in-law). The two share deep conversations most Mondays in the coach’s office, and Fleck beams about what a respectful, smart guy Ibrahim is.
On the field, though, Ibrahim doesn’t quite come off so nice. He’s a physical runner despite his size, able to gain extra yardage after contact from sheer determination.
The Gophers needed a lot of that from Ibrahim, considering the defense basically folded to a Maryland offense that managed only three points in its season opener at Northwestern, the Big Ten West’s worst team last season.
The defense — minus an interception return, fumble recovery and sack — was abysmal, allowing the Terrapins to rack up yards, torching Gophers cornerbacks and linebackers alike.
In the season opener against Michigan last week, those first couple minutes of the game were the Gophers best, thanks to a defensive stop, a blocked punt and a score. Against Maryland, they were some of the team’s worst.
Tagovailoa led the Terrapins to a score on their first drive, culminating in an 8-yard run from Jake Funk (21 carries, 216 yards). The Gophers followed that with a swift three-and-out, setting Tagovailoa up for a big 39-yard touchdown run off a scramble.
Cam Wiley appeared to fumble the ensuing kickoff return, though the officials overturned that call. That’s also when the Gophers’ own luck started to turn.
Ibrahim scored on a 1-yard run with about two minutes left in the first quarter. Tagovailoa interrupted the momentum with a monster 76-yard touchdown pass to Jeshaun Jones. But Ibrahim roared back with another 2-yard rush into the end zone to start the second quarter.
The Gophers defense had looked largely hapless but redeemed itself with a vital turnover. Defensive end Boye Mafe tipped a Tagovailoa pass, which fell to defensive tackle DeAngelo Carter, who ran all of his 310 pounds 22 yards.
That granted Ibrahim yet another crack at the end zone, scoring on another 1-yard press. Ibrahim would add one more 1-yard touchdown in the first half, which launched the Gophers into the lead for the first time.
Ibrahim’s four first-half touchdowns matched a Gophers record for most rushing scores in a game, with just former Gophers running back Darrell Thompson also accomplishing that feat in the first half.
The ground game earned a small break to start the second half, with receiver Chris Autman-Bell stepping into the limelight. Autman-Bell caught only one pass to star Rashod Bateman’s nine in the season opener but put together three catches for 100-plus yards against Maryland, including a 39-yard touchdown.
Maryland managed to drive the ball all the way to the 1-yard line before fumbling and handing possession back to the Gophers. A 25-yard field goal from Brock Walker made it 31-consecutive points for the Gophers, until Tagovailoa threw 15 yards to Dontay Demus in the fourth quarter.
That seemed to open the flood gates, as Terrapins kicker Joseph Petrino sank a 51-yard field goal about halfway through the fourth quarter before Funk scored a 19-yard rush to level the score with minutes to play.
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.
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