116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Kirk Ferentz’s first words in his postgame news conference Saturday after his Iowa football team beat Colorado State, 24-14:
“I think you've heard me say it before, winning is never easy, and that certainly was the case today.”
Maryland Coach Mike Locksley after his Terrapins defeated Kent State Saturday:
“We could have played better, but as I told my team, winning is hard.”
We get it. You’re in a tough racket and the opponents don’t show up waving white flags.
But that said, Iowa and Maryland have both endured serious challenges through four games and here they are, 4-0 and ready to have quite a Friday night game in College Park.
It’s often been said that styles make fights. Well, this is a fight FS1 can sell to a national audience. You have a Maryland team averaging 519.3 yards and 37.3 points against an Iowa team allowing 271.5 yards and 11 points.
Were the voting conducted today, you’d probably have the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year in Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and the Defensive Player of the Year in Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell.
You have a steady Iowa program which almost surely will post a ninth-consecutive winning record against Maryland, which is trying to snap a string of six straight losing seasons. In fact, the Terrapins were 12-37 in the Big Ten in those six years.
Something’s got to give. Does the team in the top five win again and proceed to a heavyweight bout with Penn State the following weekend? Does Maryland step out of the shadows and take down a big boy to get to 5-0 itself?
It will be an attractive Friday Night Fight, and the main reason is Tagovailoa. If the sounds familiar, it’s because his brother Tua had a 22-2 record as the starting quarterback at Alabama, and came off the bench to lead the Crimson Tide past Georgia in the 2018 national-title game as a first-year freshman.
Tua’s brother has given the Terps everything they could reasonably have wanted so far this season. With the realization they haven’t played a Top 25 team — they did beat a good West Virginia team at home, 30-24 — Tagovailoa has nonetheless been terrific.
He is first in the Big Ten in passing yards per game (335) and passing efficiency, tied for first in TD passes with 10, and has just one interception. He has completed 75.5 percent of his 147 attempts.
“He’s making the right reads and utilizing other weapons around him,” Maryland senior defensive lineman Sam Okuayinonu said after his team’s win Saturday.
“To see how he’s able to spread the ball around, manage the clock, and put points on the board. I’m happy he’s on my side.”
Twelve different Terrapins caught passes in the game, nine in the first half. Four wide receivers, two tight ends and two running backs had multiple catches.
Of course, Maryland will be reminded this week that it hasn’t faced a defense of Iowa’s stature. The Hawkeyes’ defense has allowed just two more offensive touchdowns (5) than it has scored itself, and it forced a turnover at the Colorado State 6 Saturday that set up a score for the Iowa offense.
It’s the defense that is third nationally in fewest points allowed per game, fourth in fewest yards allowed per play. It’s a Maryland offense averaging 501 yards against FBS opposition.
So it’s a whaddya-got week for both teams. Can Taulia show he’s truly a chip off the Tagavailoa family block against a big-time defense? Will Iowa respond in a winning way to the road trip, the shorter preparation week, the dynamic opposing quarterback with all sorts of targets?
Iowa has won its last 10 games. It could be putting an 11-game win streak against a Penn State nine-game win streak Oct. 9 at Kinnick Stadium in a game that would be as large as Kinnick has hosted in many moons.
But first, this thing on a Friday night off the Capital Beltway. It’s looking pretty big itself.
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