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Maryland football can't finish when it matters most in 19-16 loss to Michigan State

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The Terps looked better than they have in nearly two months, but it still wasn’t enough.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football found itself down three points to Michigan State with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Running back Anthony McFarland Jr. took the final Spartan kickoff to the Terps’ 42-yard line, placing his team in prime position to win the game.

But instead of putting a game-winning drive together and ending the Spartans bowl hopes, Maryland turned the ball over on downs with three incompletions coming from quarterback Josh Jackson, resulting in a 19-16 loss.

With a seventh consecutive defeat in their final game of the season, the Terps fall to 3-9 on the year — their worst record since 2015.

The final drive was symbolic of Maryland errors all game long, continuously failing to take advantage of key opportunities. It seemed like Mike Locksley’s squad didn’t stand a chance coming into this one, entering as 22-point underdogs. Maryland kept it close, but it just couldn’t finish when it mattered most.

After ripping a 63-yard touchdown in the third quarter, McFarland took the first carry of the following drive. The DeMatha product eluded multiple Michigan State defenders and ran for 43 yards.

But on the next play, five Spartans rushed Jackson and forced him to move to his right. Two defenders slipped past the Terps’ offensive line, forcing the signal caller to tuck the ball and take the yard loss. Jackson fumbled the ball on the tuck, allowing Michigan State to recover.

Jackson’s late third quarter mistake proved to be critical for the Terps, who had been positioned at the 30-yard line with a new set of downs. After the Spartans gathered the fumble, quarterback Brian Lewerke led a 13 play, 59 yard drive that resulted in a field goal, tying the game at 16 apiece.

Nearly two minutes later, Michigan State put together another long drive — 12 plays for 74 yards — to setup Spartan kicker Matt Coghlin for a field goal to take the lead. Coughlin nailed it from 33 yards, giving Michigan State the advantage and making the team bowl eligible.

As the team has done for the majority of the season, Maryland began the game in a hole. On the opening drive of the game, Michigan State drove 50 yards to put three points on the board.

But the first quarter was overshadowed by the four takeaways between the two teams in a span of about 10 minutes. Although each team had two takeaways in the first quarter, only Maryland took advantage — though the Spartans capitalized on a Terp turnover in the second with a one-yard Lewerke touchdown.

Off of Maryland’s second interception of the quarter, Jackson connected with wideout Dontay Demus Jr. for a 44-yard touchdown, giving the Terps their first lead since Oct. 19 against Indiana.

With just over three minutes remaining in the half, Maryland drove to Michigan State’s 16-yard line and was in position to go into halftime with a lead. But due to two sacks and a Jackson intentional grounding penalty, the Terps were backed up 32 yards and pushed out of field goal territory. The missed scoring opportunity allowed the Spartans to go into halftime with a 13-7 lead.

On Maryland football’s second drive of the third quarter, Jackson handed the ball off to McFarland out of the shotgun formation. The redshirt sophomore immediately tucked it into his right arm, bounced outside his offensive line and took the carry 63 yards for his eighth rushing touchdown of the season.

With four plays going for 40 or more yards, Maryland put together one of its best offensive performances of the second half of the season. The Terps totaled 316 yards and managed to gather 15 first downs, but couldn't find a way to come up with a big play at the time they needed it most.

In the final two quarters of Maryland’s season, Michigan State took advantage of its errors. The Spartans scored six unanswered points in the fourth quarter to finish the game on top and send them to a bowl game.

Three things to know

1. Michigan State become bowl eligible. For the 12th time in the past 13 years, Michigan State is headed to a bowl game after beating Maryland. Despite losing consecutive Big Ten games, the Spartans are able to salvage their season with a sixth win against the Terps. With the victory, Michigan State become the third Big Ten team to become bowl eligible 12 times since 2007, joining Wisconsin and Ohio State.

2. Josh Jackson’s first-drive troubles continue to final game of the season. For the third time this season, Jackson threw an interception on Maryland’s first drive of the game. Jackson was attempting to hit Daryl Jones, but the wideout fell to the ground. Jackson’s pass flew right into Michigan State defensive back Josiah Scott’s curled arms. Jackson’s misthrow to Jones was his sixth interception of the year.

3. Maryland had a much better defensive performance. In the last six games of the team’s losing streak, the Terps allowed an average of 48.6 points, 246.2 rushing yards and 447.4 total yards. But in the last game of the season, Maryland’s defense limited a bowl-hungry Michigan State team. The Spartans finished with just 19 points and 88 rushing yards.