Brendan Sullivan threw two touchdown passes, passed for 265 yards, and added 56 on the ground as Northwestern defeated Maryland 33-27 on Saturday.
Maryland was without a key assistant coach. Co-offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin was arrested in Florida on Oct. 22 on suspicion of driving while under the influence and was not with the Terrapins on Saturday.
Trailing 27-17 early in the third quarter, Maryland was held to a field goal after a 12-play, 38-yard drive. With the Northwestern defense holding its own, Sullivan helped secure the lead by scrambling in the pocket and finding A.J Henning for a 34-yard catch up the left seam, setting up a 19-yard field goal from Jack Olsen that put Northwestern ahead 30-20 with 9:19 left.
“As we know Brendan can make plays with his legs, always being available … get open, knowing he can make a play at any time and throw it, just being on the same page and made a big play happen,” Henning said.
After another stop by the Northwestern defense, Sullivan connected with Joseph Himon II for a 53-yard catch and run to set up another field goal by Olsen to extend the lead to 33-20 with 5:03 left.
Northwestern (4-4, 2-3 Big Ten) has been somewhat of a surprise after coming into the season with a 1-11 2022 record and a major hazing scandal that put an end to Pat Fitzgerald as Northwestern’s head coach.
Northwestern didn’t exactly have the momentum going for them. The announced attendance was 19,286 with low support from the student body and Northwestern being a two-touchdown underdog.
“Those oddsmakers aren’t sitting in our room, they are not in our position rooms, they don’t know the heart that exists in that room, they don’t know the purpose that drives these guys. We’ll let guys make their odds and we’ll go back to work,” Northwestern interim coach David Braun said.
Trailing 33-20, Terps quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa engineered a quick 4-play 61-yard, scoring drive, capping it off with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Jeshaun Jones with 3:42 left. Maryland’s defense finally held the Northwestern offense to a three-and-out and Tagovailoa was threatening with a game-winning drive but Tai Felton dropped a pass at the 11, then Tagovailoa was picked off by Coca Azema at the Northwestern 8-yard line.
“It was a drop and then the next one the receiver is falling down on the ground. Players got to make plays. It’s our job as coaches to give schemes, put things in place and we both have a responsibility in that relationship, coach and player,” said Maryland coach Mike Locksley. “Both those plays were plays that could and should’ve been made and both were not. Story of the day for us.”
Tagovailoa threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked six times, including a costly fumble in the first quarter that led to a Northwestern touchdown.
“Obviously, a really disappointing loss. Give Northwestern credit, but they outplayed us. They outplayed us, they outhustled us, they outhit us and when that happens you have to look at everything, including myself and all the way down the roster. Everybody that made this trip played a part in what happened today and it’s really disappointing,” Locksley said.
Sullivan displayed great chemistry with senior wide receiver Bryce Kirtz. They hooked up with a 24-yard pass and then a 23-yard touchdown pass.
Sullivan was 12 of 14 for 159 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in the first half and Tagovailoa was 15 of 22 for 172 yards with two touchdown passes.
Northwestern: The Wildcats came into the game with only one touchdown in the previous six quarters. Sullivan, making his third straight start for the injured Ben Bryant (upper body injury), showed a complete grasp of the offense, but Braun wasn’t about to call him the starting quarterback going forward. “That’s a great question, something we’re not worried about right now,” said Braun.
Maryland: The Terrapins (5-3, 2-3) started the season 5-0 and led Ohio State 17-10 in the second quarter, but gave up 27 unanswered points to the Buckeyes, and lost to a winless Big Ten Illinois team before the bye.
Maryland: The Terrapins will host Penn State on Saturday.
Northwestern: The Wildcats will host Iowa at Wrigley Field on Saturday.