James Franklin had trouble pronouncing the Maryland quarterback’s last name.
“Tag-li-a-via?” the Penn State coach said, unsure of himself. “Hopefully, I said that right.”
Taulia Tagovailoa (TUNG-o-vai-LOA) has a tricky surname, and one that would cause even more confusion if his older brother, Tua, wasn’t a star at Alabama and the current starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins.
Pronunciation aside, Franklin knows the Maryland junior is dangerous.
He saw that in Happy Valley last November. The younger Tagovailoa threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions in leading the Terps to a 35-19 win.
Tagovailoa’s completion percentage is 70.2 this season compared to 61.5 in four games last year. In 2020, he threw seven interceptions in those four games. This year, he’s thrown eight picks vs. 17 touchdown passes, with five of those coming in an ugly 51-14 loss to Iowa.
Although Tagovailoa has hit some bumps, such as that Iowa game, Franklin likes what he sees from the Maryland junior.
“He’s a really talented guy,” Franklin said. “He can make plays with his arm. He’s made some big-time throws. He can extend plays and make plays with his feet. Does a really nice job with that as well, and I think their scheme does a great job of taking advantage of both of those things, too. So, I’ve been very impressed with him.”
Tagovailoa has also impressed Penn State defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo.
“Oh yeah, he’s a very dynamic player,” Tangelo said. “He does a lot with the ball… So I’m just very impressed with how good he is at such a young age.”
Tagovailoa’s most productive targets in the receiving game have been Dontay Demus Jr. (28 receptions, 507 yards, three touchdowns), Rakim Jarrett (31 receptions, 463 yards, five touchdowns), and receiver Carlos Carriere, who has caught four touchdown passes in just three games this season.
Carriere led the way receiving in last Saturday’s 38-35 win over Indiana, with eight catches for 134 yards and two scores. Tagovailoa threw for 419 yards against the Hoosiers, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“They’re a talented, fast, athletic team, and he does a good job of getting the ball to players in space pretty consistently,” Franklin said. “So I think it’s going to be a real challenge.”