Maryland cancels football game against Michigan State; Spartans hope for bowl next

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Barring an invitation to a bowl game, Michigan State’s 2020 football season is over.

That became clear on Thursday afternoon when, for the second time this season, Michigan State’s scheduled game with Maryland was canceled because of COVID-19 issues with the Terrapins.

Mel Tucker

The official announcement from Maryland said all of its  team activates had been paused and that the game scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday would not be rescheduled.

The Spartans and Terrapins were scheduled to play on Nov. 21, but Maryland was forced to cancel because of a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Maryland, along with other teams in the Big Ten, undergoes daily antigen testing. During its testing period from Dec. 10-16, 15 student-athletes have tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in a Big Ten test positivity rate of 2.4%. Antigen tests conducted Thursday morning resulted in three more presumptive positives while PCR tests to confirm were pending.

There were six positive cases among staff over that same time period, resulting in a population positivity rate of 12.4%. All positive individuals are now in designated isolation spaces, per health protocols.

“This has been a season of promise and of adversity," Maryland coach Michael Locksley said. “Our team has demonstrated a tremendous work ethic, resolve and displayed Maryland pride throughout this unique season. We have battled two opponents each week, the team we matched up with on  the field and COVID. Together, we experienced tremendous highs and we are deeply disappointed that we will not be able to test ourselves on the field against Michigan State.”

Maryland had two games canceled this season because of its own COVID issues, then lost a third game because Michigan was forced to cancel. The Michigan State cancellation makes four lost games for the Terrapins, who finish the season 2-3. The four cancellations were the most of any team in the Big Ten.

Michigan State’s season ends at 2-5 with losses in the final two games.

“While we were looking forward to finishing the regular season this Saturday at Maryland, we certainly understand the decision to cancel the game,” Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said in a statement. “The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff will always be our No. 1 priority.

“I want to thank our medical staff for everything they have done for our program all season long. They have done a tremendous job keeping us safe and we’ve worked hard as a team to remain diligent in following all of our safety protocols.”

It all left Michigan State scrambling. Teams in the Big Ten can reschedule with another conference team that has lost a game, and Iowa falls into that category after its game this weekend with Michigan was canceled because of COVID-19 issues with the Wolverines.

But Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz made it clear earlier in the week that his team was willing to sit out and wait to find what sort of bowl bid it might receive, finishing its season 6-2.

And on Thursday night, a Michigan State spokesman confirmed the Spartans would not add another team to the schedule.

That leaves the Spartans hoping for a bowl bid in order to play again this season. That’s a long shot for a 2-5 team, but there are no win requirements this season and some bowl-eligible teams have already said they don’t plan to accept a bowl bid.

If Michigan State does get an invitation, Tucker would want to accept.

“If we were asked to play, I would love to play,” Tucker said. “I want to play, I want to practice, want to compete, get more practice time with our guys and keep developing our guys and just seeing how far we can take this team and what this team can become before we turn the page to our offseason conditioning program leading up to spring ball.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau