Remember when Maryland football was 4-0 and on the verge of being ranked? Those were the glory days.
The Terps were favored all week against Minnesota, a team playing without its starting quarterback. But just before kickoff, Maryland announced it was playing its backup, too. The offense was stagnant for most of the day, and while the Terps’ defense was decent, a bevy of penalties and turnovers were far too much to overcome.
Michigan State is up next. This game looked like an obvious loss when the year began, but the Spartans are in a serious down year, so it’s pretty much a toss-up for now, at least until Maryland’s quarterback situation becomes a little more transparent.
Maryland vs. Minnesota - what we saw
1. An unhealthy dose of Tyrrell Pigrome. The true freshman was a last-minute replacement for senior Perry Hills, and from the onset it was clear why Pigrome was the team’s backup. He went 18-of-37 with 161 yards, one score and two picks, and he also had 25 of the team’s 36 rushing attempts (gaining 70 yards). That’s involvement on 62 of 73 plays, which severely contrasts Conor Rhoda, Minnesota’s emergency quarterback, who threw just 15 passes and ran it five times.
2. The Terps were held back by holding penalties. Maryland had six such calls in the game, with five coming in the first half. These infractions brought back a 38-yard dash from Pigrome and a third-and-20 conversion by Lorenzo Harrison, among other plays. We’ve covered this at length already, but it’s worth mentioning again.
3. Emergency backup in the secondary. The Terps had already lost safety Denzel Conyers for the season with a torn ACL, and on Saturday the team was frequently without two of its cornerbacks. JC Jackson was off the field for most of the game (we still don’t have a reason for this), and Will Likely injured himself on a kickoff return early in the second quarter and never returned. Freshmen Elisha Daniels and Tino Ellis (yeah, wide receiver Tino Ellis) saw way more action than planned, although it’s worth noting that they and freshman safety Qwauntrezz Knight all performed pretty well.
Maryland vs. Michigan State - what we’re expecting
1. A more vertical offense. Nobody knows who’s going to be taking snaps for the Terps, but no matter if it’s Hills or Pigrome, something has to change. Maryland attacked Minnesota almost entirely with screen passes and outside runs, and neither was particularly effective. The Terps only gained 100 yards in the game’s first three quarters.
2. Heavier reliance on the run. Maryland’s running backs combined for 10 carries against the Gophers (although that doesn’t count rushes called back for holding). Minnesota did have one of the nation’s best run defenses, but the ground game is Maryland’s strength. Expect the Terps to utilize backfield playmakers like Lorenzo Harrison and Ty Johnson much more against Michigan State, which struggles at stopping the run.
3. The Spartans aren’t exactly one-dimensional, but they’re not that good. Michigan State, the reigning Big Ten champ, was ranked in the Top 10 after starting 2-0 this season, but advanced metrics like S&P+ were down on the Spartans from the beginning. A four-game losing streak (which includes a 14-point home loss to Northwestern on Saturday) has vindicated those skeptics. However, Michigan State still has a relatively balanced offense headed by quarterback Tyler O’Connor and running back L.J. Scott, so Maryland will have to plan for both the pass and run this week.