Last Saturday, Maryland football was able to hang with a Michigan State team that was fighting for bowl-eligibility, but was unable to play spoiler on the road.
The Terps fell 19-16 in East Lansing due to early turnovers, despite a strong effort from their defense throughout the contest.
Here is a closer look at the good and bad in Maryland’s final game of the season.
Early turnovers hurt
Ever since the Terps hung around with Indiana on Oct. 19, the team has struggled mightily against top teams, with one of the constants being poor starts.
Against the Spartans, Maryland continued this trend as quarterback Josh Jackson threw an interception on the team’s first drive of the game — the third time he’s done so this season.
Maryland split three wide receivers to the right on third-and-10. And despite Jackson having time and space in the pocket to step up and make a throw, wide receiver Darryl Jones tripped, allowing Josiah Scott to drive right for the ball.
Second drive. Second turnover for Maryland football. pic.twitter.com/Kw78rl3h7h— Lila Bromberg (@lilabbromberg) November 30, 2019
Even after the defense came up with a stop on downs, the Maryland offense continued its slow start, as Dontay Demus Jr. ran a hitch route to get the necessary six yard to convert, but coughed the ball up as he tried to turn up field.
Generally, these mistakes would have put games out of reach for the Terps, but they found themselves still in the thick of things early.
The defense shined when the offense became a factor
Despite the slow offensive start, the Maryland defense was able to come up with three straight turnovers after allowing a field goal on Michigan State’s opening possession to keep this game close.
Right after Maryland turns the ball over, Marcus Lewis comes up clutch with an interception in his final game as a Terp. pic.twitter.com/3kMplSzP1N— Lila Bromberg (@lilabbromberg) November 30, 2019
Marcus Lewis helped prevent a touchdown with the Terps’ first interception of the game, while freshman Deonte Banks helped reverse field on the next Spartan drive.
Maryland was then able to get on the board late in the first quarter with a touchdown pass from Jackson to Demus, marking the first time the Terps held a lead since that mid-October matchup with Indiana.
After Michigan State took a 13-7 lead into the half, Maryland was able to come out and hold the Spartans scoreless for the entire third quarter, helping the Terp offense regain the lead until a field goal over five and a half minutes into the fourth quarter tied the game at 16.
Anthony McFarland Jr. returned to top form
After struggling to make an impact over the past five weeks while battling an ankle injury, McFarland exploded on the scene Saturday by rushing for 134 yards and one touchdown on just eight rushes.
With the rest of the backfield unable to make a difference, it was up to McFarland to uphold the Terps’ reputation as a superior rushing team in the final game of the season.
McFarland’s biggest rush of the game came in the third quarter, as he took an edge rush quickly to the left sideline and was able to cut upfield and blaze past the defense for a 63-yard touchdown.
On top of his work on the ground, McFarland had a hand in special teams for the Terps by returning the final Michigan State kickoff 40 yards, giving the offense good field position and a better chance to tie or win the game — though it couldn’t capitalize.
The bottom line
For a Maryland team that struggled mightily to be competitive for the bulk of this season, Saturday’s game was a positive effort for the program as it looks towards the future.
With a number of players injured or sitting out for the final game of the season, it was good sign to see other players step up and take advantage of their chances to shine. Still, turnovers and sloppy mistakes remain to be a big concern that will need to be fixed if the team hopes for a better 2020 season.
Head coach Mike Locksley and his staff certainly have playmakers to work with and the foundation is there for the program to compete — it will simply continue to be a building process as the staff’s first full offseason comes around.