Maryland football followed up a blistering start with a mediocre finish Saturday at Michigan State, but behind a season-high five turnovers from its defense, Maryland held off the Spartans, 31-9.
The Terps (4-0) will have a chance next weekend to improve to 5-0 for the first time since 2001 when they host Indiana (2-2).
Here’s how each position group performed in the Terps’ road opener.
Taulia Tagovailoa was great for the first 16 minutes of Saturday’s game. He led the Terps to three touchdowns on their first three drives, with two passing scores and one rush from a yard out. He was efficient as well, connecting on all but four passes during that span.
But after heading to the medical tent following the fourth drive, which ended in a three-and-out, he looked a tad uncomfortable. Provided he finished with over 220 yards and three touchdowns, we saw two different Tagovailoas Saturday: an elite quarterback in the first half and a hesitant one in the final 30 minutes.
Maryland’s rushing attack was outstanding the previous two games, but was subpar against Michigan State, managing 83 yards on 20 carries. Most notably, Roman Hemby registered a lowly 12 yards on 10 attempts. However, head coach Mike Locksley did mention that Hemby was “nicked up” during the week.
Colby McDonald continues to emerge in the backfield, as he rushed five times for 38 yards. Antwain Littleton II added 33 yards on nine carries.
Maryland exploited Michigan State’s inexperienced and unhealthy secondary early and often, and the Terps’ receivers benefited. Tai Felton and Octavian Smith Jr. were beneficiaries of big plays, hauling in passes for 31 and 38 yards, respectively.
Kaden Prather continued to solidify himself as the No. 1 option, leading the team with six catches for 45 yards. And Tyrese Chambers caught his first touchdown of the season, a 12-yard grab on third down.
In the first three games, Corey Dyches was bringing in target after target, but he struggled to find much space Saturday, with the game plan centered toward more downfield shots in the first half. He caught just one of four balls thrown his way for nine yards.
Preston Howard also had a catch for nine yards, and he yet again found his way on the highlight reel when he hurdled a defender for the second time in as many games.
A lot to unpack here. First off, it seems like Locksley has found his go-to starting unit: Gottlieb Ayedze, Kyle Long, Delmar Glaze, Corey Bullock and Aric Harris. They each played every snap, outside of Harris, who sat out three of the team’s 66 offensive snaps.
The unit was very good in passing situations, with an average pass blocking grade of 79.5 per starter, according to Pro Football Focus. That number went down almost 20 points for run blocking, which was evident by the lack of holes Maryland’s running backs saw.
Quashon Fuller was one of many Maryland defenders who shined bright Saturday, registering four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. As a unit, Maryland’s front pressured Michigan State’s quarterbacks all game.
Jordan Phillips added three tackles and a quarterback pressure.
Sean Greeley really kickstarted this group’s performance by catching a touchdown on Maryland’s first drive of the game. And just a few minutes later, he forced a fumble.
Up and down the lineup, the linebackers had a great game. Ruben Hyppolite II managed six tackles — half for a loss — and Caleb Wheatland also had one and a half sacks and tackles each. Overall, the linebackers enjoyed their most impactful game of the season.
While the linebackers had their best game of the season, Maryland’s secondary had the best performance of any position group this season. Its three interceptions were a large reason why Maryland dominated.
Beau Brade was exceptional with an interception, 10 tackles and a pass breakup. He also came up big for a stop on fourth-and-goal early in the game when Michigan State had a chance to tie the game at seven.
Tarheeb Still and Glendon Miller added the two other interceptions.
It might be time to sound the alarm bells over Maryland’s kicking situation. Redshirt sophomore Jack Howes has struggled to replace Chad Ryland, and he was not good Saturday. Howes made just one of his three field goal attempts, moving him to 4-for-8 on the year.
The good news for the Terps is they have nothing to worry about at punter, with Colton Spangler continuing to be one of the best in the nation. Two of his kicks pinned the Spartans inside their own 20, and Spangler showed off his athleticism on an impromptu fake punt, rushing for a first down.
Locksley hounded all week that his team needed to come out of the gates fast — and it did just that, executing three straight touchdown drives. But when Michigan State started to turn the momentum in the third quarter, few adjustments were made, despite his visual disapproval.
Regardless, the Terps picked up their first win in East Lansing in over 70 years, and it was a welcome sight to see them play with a lead.