If there was any sequence that summed up Saturday afternoon for Maryland football against Michigan State, it came with 11:11 left in the fourth quarter. Trailing 17-3, Byron Cowart picked off a Rocky Lombardi pass in the backfield, but lost the ball going into the end zone and it was recovered by Matt Dotson for a touchback. The next play, Connor Heyward broke through the Terps (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) defensive line for an 80-yard touchdown to officially put the game out of reach.
All afternoon, the Spartans (6-3, 4-2) took advantage of opportunities and Maryland didn’t in a 24-3 loss. The Terps’ offense sputtered like it has all year against stout defenses, and only came away with three points on three drives where they were gift-wrapped field position in Michigan State territory. Like it has in its previous losses, the Terps didn’t hit 100 yards of offense until the fourth quarter.
Maryland ran for a paltry 26 yards on 29 carries and still averaged only 2.7 yards per carry if you take out sacks. Kasim Hill had receivers drop passes early and never found his rhythm, finishing 8-of-21 for 74 yards.
On the opposite sideline, Michigan State did it exactly what it wanted to do to get the win. Besides a few quick passes, the Spartans wore Maryland’s defense down, using a consistent run game before Heyward’s long run to seal the game. Heyward ran for a career-high 157 yards on 15 carries; he had run for 159 in the Spartans previous seven games.
The game started out just how Michigan State wanted it to, with the Spartans controlling the ball and stifling any Maryland offense.
The Terps went three-and-out on their first drive, while Michigan State used a combination of power running and big plays to scored a touchdown. The Spartans gained 24 yards on a third-and-9 to move into Maryland territory, then converted a fourth-and-1 before Heyward scampered in from 18 yards out to give Michigan State a 7-0 lead.
Maryland’s next drive ended with a fourth-and-32, giving the Spartans short field at the Terrapins 42-yard line. A 22-yard Lewerke bootleg got Michigan State into the red zone, but Maryland’s defense held from there and forced a field goal.
The Terps started to settle into the game in the second quarter, but failed to take advantage of two solid scoring opportunities. Maryland was driving to begin the period and was looking to pick up a fourth-and-1 on the Spartans’ 38-yard line, only for Derwin Gray to be be called for a false start, prompting a punt. A botched punt later gave Maryland great field position at the Michigan State 42-yard line, and moved inside the 10 after a roughing the passer call. The Terps could only muster a field goal, and went into the locker room trailing 10-3.
Both teams’ first drives of the second half sputtered, but Michigan State made some great adjustments and used quick passes to open up the running game late in the drive. On first-and-goal, Deon Jones poked the ball away from Heyward at the one-yard line, only for the ball to trickle in the end zone and Max Rosenthal to fall on it for the Spartans’ touchdown.
Like the first half, Maryland had some golden opportunities following the Michigan State touchdown and couldn’t convert.
Bryce Baringer’s eight-yard punt gave the Terps great field position at the Spartans 34 and Maryland went three-and-out. RaVon Davis intercepted Lewerke two plays later, and the Terps were forced to punt again.
Following the Cowart interception that turned into a touchback, Heyward ran 80 yards untouched to the end zone to put the game away.
Maryland is back in action next week at Indiana for one more real chance to become bowl eligible. Even though the Hoosiers are slumping, the Terps have struggled on the road in the Big Ten recently, losing 10 if their 11 conference road games.
Three things to know
- Maryland’s offense failed miserably against a good defense again. Any confidence the Terps had about moving the ball evaporated early. Maryland moved backwards 14 yards on its first two drives, and couldn’t get the running game going to sustain anything else.
- Michigan State executed its gameplan to near perfection. If you throw out the two interceptions, this is exactly how the Spartans wanted to win this game. They dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides, limiting Maryland’s only offensive weapon and wearing down their frontline until Heyward finally busted one.
- Next week is Maryland’s last real chance to become bowl eligible. While the Terps still have three games remaining, there’s little chance they even compete in their last two games against Ohio State and Penn State. Maryland has gone 1-1 in Memorial Stadium since joining the Big Ten, and both teams have played close games the last two seasons.