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Little brother: Lions set to face younger Tagovailoa, who’s coming off great game for Terps

Photo by Maryland Athletics

It’s not easy being the little brother. That’s true for just about all little brothers everywhere, and especially for little brothers whose big brother happens to be famous.

Penn State faces Maryland on Saturday, and the Terps are led by Taulia Tagovailoa, little brother of former Alabama star and current Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa.

Taulia is coming off a great performance Friday against Minnesota, completing 26-of-35 for 394 yards with three TDs and one INT. He led Maryland back from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter to stun the Gophers in OT, 45-44.

For his efforts, Taulia was named Big Ten co-offensive player of the week on Monday. The other co-recipient just so happened to be Ohio State QB Justin Fields, so Penn State just faced one of the award winners and will face the other next week.

As well as things went for Taulia against Minnesota, he had a disastrous outing in his first game as the Terps’ quarterback. He was 14-of-25 for 94 yards and threw three interceptions in a season-opening 43-3 blowout loss at Northwestern.

James Franklin said he thought Taulia “played extremely well” against Minnesota.

“You watch that Minnesota game, it’s hard not to be impressed,” Franklin said Tuesday. “You look at the completion percentage, you look at the decision making, you look at his ability to make plays with his feet, as well as extend plays in the pocket was impressive.”

PSU has outscored Maryland 163-6 over the past three meetings and is favored by 24.5 points this week. But …

“We got a hot quarterback coming in here,” Franklin said. “And whenever you got a hot quarterback in college football or the NFL, you got a chance.”

Franklin said he has “tremendous respect” for the Tagovailoa family and how Tua has gone about his business at Alabama and in the NFL.

“We got an opportunity to play the little brother,” Franklin added, “and he did he did a bunch of great things on Saturday.”

Franklin then added a little bit more about the “little brother” aspect.

“I also think it’s tough to be the little brother of … have a big brother that’s (had) such a prolific college (career) and start of an NFL career.”

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Franklin dealt with that sort of thing first hand at his previous institution, coaching the younger brother of NFL star Aaron Rodgers.

“We had a similar situation at Vanderbilt when I was the head coach there with Jordan Rogers, you know, so it can be tough, it can be challenging,” Franklin said. “But I think (Taulia has) done a good job of embracing it.”

Taulia began his college career at Alabama with his brother and was a backup last year to Tua and current Tide starter Mac Jones.

Taulia knew Jones would be the starter this year, so he decided to transfer.

“It’s really tough, and it’s nothing against Alabama,” his father, Galu, told “But my boys are competitive, and Lia is such a competitive kid. And he wanted an opportunity to compete. He was told that he was going to come in and compete, and he didn’t really get that opportunity, so he wanted to use the spring to do that. But with the COVID-19 thing going on, he didn’t really have the opportunity to compete.

“He’s a competitor. He likes to work. He likes to compete on the field. And just, going into the season this year, he just felt that he wasn’t given that opportunity and he wants to take it somewhere where they’re going to give him the opportunity to make the best of his skill set.”

Taulia transferred to Maryland, which is coached by Mike Locksley, former offensive coordinator at Alabama and someone the Tagovailoa family knows well.

Taulia was granted a waiver to be eligible immediately with the Terps, and he was able to step into the starting job when Josh Jackson, a transfer from Virginia Tech who started last year against PSU, decided to opt out this season because of the coronavirus.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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