COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Kirk Ferentz is in his 23rd year as Iowa’s coach, so he’s pretty familiar with the trips his team will take through the Big Ten.
There are exceptions, though. The Hawkeyes are about to play at Maryland for only the second time.
“It’s still different, yeah. It definitely feels — they’re not new to the Big Ten per se, but they’re new to us because we’ve only been there once,” Ferentz said. “It really is different, just like traveling to Rutgers was different.”
Although this is Maryland’s eighth football season in the Big Ten, the Terrapins still feel like newcomers. There are still teams they haven’t played very often — and perhaps more importantly, the Terps haven’t been all that relevant in the league standings. They can a big step toward changing that Friday night when they host No. 5 Iowa in a matchup of unbeaten teams.
Maryland (4-0, 1-0) has never even started Big Ten play 2-0, and the Terps haven’t started the season 5-0 overall since 2001. Reaching those milestones would be nice, but the real reason this is a big week is the quality of this opponent.
Iowa (4-0. 1-0) has won its last 10 games dating to last year. The Hawkeyes have already beaten two ranked teams this season, and Maryland is just outside the Top 25.
So this will be a different challenge than what the Terrapins have faced so far this year, but Maryland coach Michael Locksley wants his team to remain even keeled — and play to a certain standard, regardless of the opponent.
“It doesn’t change. It’s a philosophy of what it takes and how we want to play,” he said. “To me, the standard is a way of life. It’s a four-quarter team, a team that plays for four quarters with great effort and mental intensity, a team that doesn’t look at the scoreboard, a team that doesn’t ride the wave or the ebb and flow of momentum.”
Iowa is allowing 11 points per game, the best mark in the Big Ten, but Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa leads the conference with 1,340 yards passing.
“I don’t know where I was that they played a Friday night game. I think his first game to open the season a year ago, and it wasn’t a good outing for them or the quarterback necessarily,” Ferentz said. “Just look at over the last year and a half, how that thing has just changed and he’s playing at a real high level right now, as is their team. So tough start to the season a year ago, and the transformation they’ve gone through is really, really impressive.”
Tagovailoa has thrown just one interception on the season, but Iowa has picked off a Big Ten-best six passes.
The Terps beat Kent State 37-16 last weekend, although they allowed 458 yards of offense while doing it. The previous weekend, Kent State faced Iowa and lost 30-7.
The Terrapins are set to have green ribbons on their helmets after designating this a mental health awareness game.
“Especially being a male student-athlete, there isn’t too many people that come out and say that they’re having struggles,” punter Anthony Pecorella said. “They just don’t want to be labeled as, oh, they’re soft, they’re not … thankful for all the blessings they’ve been given — which they are. As a male student-athlete, it’s very tough sometimes to share your story.”
THE OTHER QB
Iowa’s Spencer Petras doesn’t have Tagovailoa’s gaudy stats, but he is 10-2 as the team’s starter.
While Iowa leads the Big Ten in interceptions, Maryland is at the top in sacks with 16.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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