COLLEGE PARK, MD. – The slide for Michigan State continued Saturday night as the Spartans lost for the fifth consecutive game, 28-17, at Maryland. The Spartans had a 17-14 lead entering the fourth quarter but were outscored 14-0 in the final 15 minutes to fall to 2-5 on the season and 0-4 in the Big Ten.
Maryland (5-2, 2-2) rolled up 447 total yards, including 200 yards passing and two touchdowns on 21-of-27 attempts by senior quarterback Perry Hills. Sophomore running back Ty Johnson had just nine carries in the game but ran for 115 yards. Freshman Lorenzo Harrison had 105 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries. It is the fourth straight week that Michigan State has allowed a 100-yard back.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Brian Lewerke started his second consecutive game. Fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor did not warm up before the game and reportedly has an injured ankle.
This is Michigan State’s first five-game losing streak since 1991.
Five things we learned
- Michigan State has no one to blame but itself. The Spartans committed seven penalties for 84 yards and many of them came in crucial moments. Senior wide receiver Monty Madaris was called for two offensive pass interference penalties, each of which wiped out completions to other receivers that would have give the Spartans a first down with big gains. Madaris also lost a fumble inside the Maryland 5-yard line in the third game when the game was tied, 14-14.
- Brian Lewerke showed a lot of growth from his first start to his second. He had happy feet against Northwestern, especially after the first quarter, but he was much better in his decision-making in this game against a Maryland defense that was third in the Big Ten with 18 sacks and was holding opponents to less than 180 yards passing a game. Lewerke missed some throws — he threw short to wide receiver Donnie Corley in the red zone and also missed running back LJ Scott on a swing pass that was open for a big gain in the fourth quarter — but there was definite improvement.
- Riley Bullough is the emotional leader of this team but he let his emotions get the better of him in the first quarter, leading to his ejection from the game after a targeting call before 11 minutes were gone in the game. Bullough, who was called for a late hit on Maryland’s first possession and for roughing the passer on its second, got the trifecta of personal fouls when he left his feet and hit wide receiver D.J. Moore high on a short inside pass. Two flags came out immediately from the officials and then the replay booth confirmed the call. Bullough has to know better and keep himself in the game.
- The defense still can’t stop teams. Maryland’s four touchdown drives were for 96, 90, 75 and 82 yards.
- For some reason, Michigan State ran a fake with one second left in the first half instead of attempting a 46-yard field goal. The snap went to kicker Michael Geiger who attempted to run around the right end but wasn’t close to breaking free as the clock ran out. Geiger would’ve had a significant wind at his back.
Madaris’ fumble with 10:11 left in the third quarter was a crushing blow. It came on a third-and-6 play. Madaris had the first down but put his head down trying to get into the end zone. Instead, defensive back JC Jackson forced the ball loose and linebacker Chandler Burkett recovered. Michigan State eventually took a 17-14 lead but that lost opportunity came back to haunt the Spartans.
Will Mark Dantonio go to his young players? Yes. The Spartans already had seven freshmen play this season, the most in Dantonio’s 10 seasons. They added to it as linebacker Joe Bachie and safety Kenney Lyke got into the game. More than just the freshmen, Dantonio used a lot of redshirt freshmen and sophomores in his rotations looking for answers.
What will you be doing in December? If you’re Michigan State, you’re not likely going to a bowl game. The Spartans will need to win four of their last five games to become bowl eligible.
Michigan State had gained just 136 yards rushing in its previous two games against BYU (85) and Northwestern (51) but the Spartans had well surpassed that by halftime when they had 163 yards on 25 carries. They finished with a season-high 270 yards, including 128 yards for LJ Scott, his first 100-yard game since the season opener against Furman. Scott had gained just 34 yards on six carries and hadn’t scored since the Notre Dame game. Gerald Holmes added 59 yards and a touchdown. In another losing night, this was positive.
What it means
Michigan State is really in trouble with rival Michigan coming to East Lansing next week. The Wolverines will be seeking revenge for last year’s miracle loss in Ann Arbor as well as having lost seven of the last eight games in the series.