Maryland lost its seventh game in a row to Michigan State Saturday. That was expected. S&P+ gave the Terps a 22 percent chance of winning and projected a 14-point margin of victory for the Spartans, so no one's really surprised the Terps lost. The script was familiar: Maryland couldn't move the ball on offense, and the superior team secured its in the second half. Now the Terps have two more shots to get a Big Ten win this season.
Here's a non-exhaustive list of who played well Saturday and who didn't:
Yannick Ngakoue, defensive end: He's established himself as Maryland's best player, with Will Likely being the only player who even comes close. Nagkoue was constantly in Michigan State's backfield all game, and recorded two quarterback hits to go along with 1.5 sacks and teamed up with Jesse Aniebonam to make a menacing opponent for Michigan State's offensive line. Michigan State did put more attention on him late, but Ngakoue was a big reason why the Spartans couldn't move the ball effectively for most of the game. Eventually we may have to take him out of the "stock up" category, because his stock really can't get much higher than it is right now.
Maryland's defensive backs: The Terps secondary had its best game of the season against the Spartans. Connor Cook is one of the best quarterback prospects in the country, and Maryland shut him down. Anthony Nixon recorded two interceptions, one off Cook and one off backup quarterback Tyler O'Connor, both of whom combined to throw for only 121 yards on the day. Maryland didn't let many receivers get open, and Ngakoue and co.'s performance rushing the quarterback definitely helped their cause. Will Likely turned in another solid performance, although he received less snaps than usual because he was featured on offense more than he'd been in any previous game. The Terps only allowed two passes longer than 20 yards, with the Spartans longest completed pass being this 28-yarder from Cook to Macgarrett Kings, where Darnell Savage was all over his man.
It does bear repeating that Cook was injured, and that clearly affected his play. But Maryland's secondary still undeniably performed well, and was able to cut out the big plays that had hurt the team in the past.
Mike Locksely, interim head coach: Locksley has a tough job here as coach of a team that just keeps on losing. Even though there's no bowl game to play for, the Terps held their own against the No. 13 team in the country. There's certainly something to be said for that. Locksley's decision to throw the ball deep early was a questionable one, as the long pass isn't one of Perry Hills's strengths, and it didn't work out. He did complete a 37-yard pass to Levern Jacobs on his first pass of the game, but didn't have any success after that. Locksley talks a lot about how he's tailoring the offense to Hills's strengths in his second go-round as starter this season, so the decision to focus more on Hills's arm instead of his legs is a bit of a head-scratcher. His decision to put Caleb Rowe in the game at the end made sense, because although he's prone to interceptions, Rowe gives the team its best chance to move the ball downfield quickly.
Maryland's punting unit: This is the second straight week that special teams is in the "stock down" department, and after Maryland's disastrous punting performance, they deserve it again. Both punters are freshmen with a lot of time to improve and were surely upset with their performance, but 11 and 19 yard punts really put the team's defense in a tough spot. Michigan State received great field position all game and despite that, the Terps only gave up 24 points. This was a bad performance, which happens, but the Terps will need all the help they can get to salvage a victory in at least one of their final two games this season. The good news is that 11 and 19 yard punts probably say more about execution than talent. It's not like they're kicking the ball straight on and it's not going far. They just didn't hit the ball in the right area and shanked it. That can probably be improved upon.
Maryland's quarterback play: This wasn't the unit's worst performance of the season, but the passing game was entirely frustrating to watch. Hills and Rowe combined to 17-for-35 through the air, which was good for a 49 percent completion rate. Perry Hills had a stretch where he completed one of 11 passes, including one interception. The inability to complete multiple passes in a row hamstrings an offense, especially when the team isn't doing a great job of running either. That's the seventh time this season Maryland has completed less than half of its passes. Maryland quarterbacks came into this game having thrown 25 interceptions this season and to only 14 touchdowns. You don't need to do the math to know how bad that is.