Maryland gets good news on Taulia Tagovailoa’s knee injury

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Taulia Tagovailoa appears to have avoided a major injury after he was carted off the field last weekend at Indiana.

Maryland coach Michael Locksley said the standout quarterback reaggravated a previous sprain in his knee and that an MRI last weekend showed no further structural damage from when he was initially injured last month.

“A huge sense of relief, obviously,” Locksley said. “I stood there and watched him, the way it played out, it looked very painful. We’re very thankful that he had the knee brace. He fights us. He didn’t want to play in the knee brace for the past two, three weeks. We forced him to do it.”

Locksley said Tagovailoa would be a game time decision this Saturday against Northwestern.

Tagovailoa, whose brother Tua has missed time in the NFL recently following a head injury, left Saturday’s game against Indiana early in the fourth quarter. Backup Billy Edwards Jr. came in and led the Terrapins (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten) to a 38-33 victory.

Tagovailoa was injured against Michigan last month and returned for the next game. Locksley said Tuesday that Tagovailoa had a sprained MCL, which he aggravated against Indiana.

“He was able to make it back after the Michigan game with the same injury,” Locksley said. “It’s all about how his body feels and recovers, and we’ll continue to do the things necessary to keep his safety and health at the front of our decision.”

Tagovailoa has given Maryland some much-needed stability at quarterback the past couple seasons. He leads the Big Ten this year with 2,001 yards passing, and he has completed 72.5% of his throws.

“Just to know that he’s healthy and good enough to play – that’s just a great relief,” receiver Dontay Demus said. “He wants to go out there. He’s a great competitor. Whether he was good or not, I believe in him and Billy, but I feel like having Taulia just gives us all-around 100% confidence in him.”

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.