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Takeaways from Maryland football’s win at Michigan State

The Terps defeated the Spartans, 31-9.

Maryland v Michigan State
Colby McDonald (23) led all Maryland rushers on Saturday with 38 yards.
Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

Maryland football improved Saturday to 4-0 with a 31-9 win over Michigan State. The game was the Terps’ first conference and road contest of the season.

Here are three takeaways from the game.

Maryland came out of the gates hot.

The stories of Maryland’s games against Charlotte and Virginia were its slow starts, creating 14-point holes the Terps had to dig themselves out of. On Saturday, Maryland did the complete opposite, leaping out to a 21-0 lead.

Beau Brade, back after missing the team’s previous game, picked off Michigan State’s Noah Kim to get the ball rolling, and Maryland’s ensuing drive resulted in a touchdown catch by Sean Greeley. Then came a Tyrese Chambers score, and a rushing touchdown by Taulia Tagovailoa, both also set up by forced turnovers — one was a turnover on downs and the other was a fumble.

In a span of 33 minutes and five seconds — from the 11:44 mark of the fourth quarter against Virginia to the 8:39 mark of the second quarter against Michigan State — Maryland had six takeaways (not including the turnover on downs) and scored 42 points. Nobody’s expecting the Terps to keep that pace up, but it shows the potential they have when everything is clicking.

“I was really proud of our team, the way they started fast — which gave us the opportunity to come up with the W,” Maryland head coach Mike Locksley said.

Even though Maryland’s offense sputtered for the most part in the second half, Saturday’s start was a welcome sight for Locksley’s team. The next step will be playing at a high level for 60 minutes.

The Terps’ running backs were not effective.

Take out Tagovailoa’s scrambles and Colton Spangler’s bold decision to run for a first down on a fake punt, and Maryland only rushed for 88 yards against the Spartans on 25 attempts. That’s an average of 3.5 yards per carry, a full yard lower than the Terps’ average output a week prior.

Colby McDonald led all Maryland backs with 38 yards on five rushes, boosted by a 25-yard scamper in the second quarter. McDonald has provided a real boost out of the backfield in the first four games, at times providing the big-play rushing threat the Terps need.

However, the most important note from the Terps’ running backs on Saturday was definitely the performance of Roman Hemby, who managed just 12 yards on 10 carries. Locksley said after the game that Hemby was “nicked up” and as a result limited in the week leading up to the game — an explanation for his lower-than-usual workload early and relative ineffectiveness.

Of course, the blame for a lack of production on the ground falls on the offensive line, too, which is still figuring out its rotations.

Maryland’s defense bent, but refused to break.

The Terps stalled on a number of drives, placing extra responsibility on their defense to pick up the slack. Michigan State did start to move the ball with some more efficiency as the game went on, but Maryland’s defense made plays when it needed to.

Brade’s interception set the tone, and after a turnover on downs on a goal-line stand, Greeley forced a fumble that was recovered by Donnell Brown. In the third quarter, Glendon Miller picked off an ill-advised pass by Kim to stunt the Spartans’ growing momentum.

“Any time you come up with turnovers like we did today, it really helps you on the offensive side of the ball,” Locksley said. “... Offensively we were a little off today, just missing on some things, but defensively, early on, the turnovers were big.”

With less than six minutes remaining, Tarheeb Still put the game on ice when he picked off an overthrown screen pass by Katin Houser — the team’s third interception of the game. Last week, Still came up with two fourth-quarter picks to seal the team’s win over Virginia, and this week’s late-game takeaway put the nail in the coffin of the Spartans’ outside hopes of a comeback.

“This week, we made an emphasis on getting our hands around the ball. Create turnovers and create more opportunities for our offense.” Still said. “... I knew it was a screen, so I just tried to make a play. He threw it over his head and the ball came right to me.