Undisciplined Spartans drop fifth straight

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

College Park, Md. — Michigan State headed to Maryland on Saturday night with a chip on its shoulder, determined to turn its season around.

Instead, the same things that have plagued the Spartans all season were on display as Maryland defeated Michigan State, 28-17, in front of 41,235 at Capital One Field. It was the fifth straight defeat for Michigan State (2-5, 0-4 Big Ten), the first time it has lost that many in a row since 1991. It’s also the first time the Spartans have been 0-4 in Big Ten play since 1982, a year before going 0-4-1 in 1983.

Much like the previous four losses, Michigan State tackled poorly, committed critical penalties and couldn’t get a defensive stop when it needed one.

“Disappointing outcome,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “I thought we came into this game prepared but the reality of the situation is that we made too many mistakes on offense and too many penalties on defense really hurt us in the first half.”

BOX SCORE: Maryland 28, Michigan State 17

Redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke started at quarterback for the second straight game for Michigan State but was 11-for-24 for 156 yards and an interception. He did carry the ball 10 times for 79 yards while sophomore running back LJ Scott gained 128 yards on 20 carries. Senior R.J. Shelton had seven catches for 89 yards.

But it hardly matched the production of Maryland (5-2, 2-2), which ended a two-game skid and ran for 247 yards, the second straight team to go for more than 20 against the Spartans. Ty Johnson carried nine times for 115 yards while Lorenzo Harrison had 105 yards on 17 carries.

Quarterback Perry Hills returned from injury to complete 21 of 27 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns while running for 20 yards. Receiver Levern Jacobs had nine catches for 67 yards and a touchdown.

“This is a huge win for us,” Maryland coach D.J. Durkin said. “Obviously beating Michigan State, a conference opponent, a division opponent. But more than anything just coming off the two weeks in a row where we’ve had our struggles. For our guys to dig deep and have that type of response, and really for a young team to have that type of response is huge.”

Michigan State helped as much as it could, committing seven penalties for 84 yards, the first three coming against fifth-year senior linebacker Riley Bullough, all in the form of personal fouls. The final call on Bullough was a targeting penalty that led to his ejection.

“Tough to say on the helmet-to-helmet,” Dantonio said. “Some thought it was shoulder-to-shoulder, but they make the call. I’m sure he’s not trying create those penalties.”

The end result was the opening touchdown drive for Maryland, an 8-yard touchdown run by Harrison to which the Terrapins added a two-point conversion to take an 8-0 lead with 2:51 left in the first quarter.

Michigan State finally got things rolling early in the second quarter after forcing a Maryland punt as Lewerke connected with Jamal Lyles on a 24-yard pass followed by a 15-yard connection from Lewerke to Shelton. On the next play, Scott burst around the left side and outraced the Maryland defense for a 48-yard touchdown to cut the Terrapins’ lead to 8-7 with 9:41 to play in the second quarter.

After each team went three-and-out, Maryland got the offense rolling again, opening a drive from its 10 with a 40-yard run from Johnson before Hills eventually found a wide-open D.J. Moore for a 36-yard touchdown with 5:41 left in the second quarter. The point after was no good as the Terrapins extended their lead to 14-7.

“A blown mental assignment,” Dantonio said.

Michigan State answered with one of its best drives of the half, riding the strong running of Gerald Holmes and two first-down conversions from Lewerke to Shelton. The drive ended with four straight runs for Holmes, who scored on a 1-yard plunge with 38 seconds left in the second quarter to tie the game at 14.

The half closed in wild fashion after Michigan State linebacker Chris Frey forced a fumble that was recovered by safety David Dowell. The Spartans got the ball to the Terrapins 28 with one second left, but instead of attempting a 46-yard field goal, kicker Michael Geiger ran the ball on a fake and was tackled after a 4-yard gain as time ran out.

“That’s on me,” Dantonio said.

Michigan State got a three-and-out on the first drive of the second half thanks to a sack by Malik McDowell before marching down the field on the ensuing drive. However, after Lewerke connected with Monty Madaris on a 12-yard pass to pick up a first down at the Maryland 5, Madaris fumbled the ball where it was recovered by Maryland defensive tackle Chandler Burkett.

Michigan State’s defense gave up a big run on the next drive but turned the ball over on downs, giving it back to the offense at its 35 with 5:56 left in the third quarter. The Spartans took advantage, taking their first lead, 17-14, on a 36-yard field goal from Geiger with 1:35 left in the third quarter.

The Spartans could have gone up by a touchdown, but Lewerke missed Donnie Corley with a pass on third down.

“We’re driving and Donnie ran the slant and I threw it at his feet,” Lewerke said. “That would have bene a walk-in touchdown and put us up by a touchdown. That’s one play I wish I had back.”

Maryland came right back, however, as Johnson had runs of 44 and 18 yards to move the Terrapins inside the Michigan State 5. Kenneth Goins Jr. capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to put the Terrapins ahead, 21-17, with 13:49 left in the fourth quarter.

The Spartans looked like they would answer and moved into Maryland territory, but another crucial penalty killed the drive as Madaris was called for a questionable pass interference. It led to a punt and the Maryland drive that put the game away.

“You guys have to watch that one and make that call yourself,” Dantonio said. “I’m not gonna comment on that. He was trying to run a route.”

The Terrapins then put the game away with an 82-yard drive that took 5:09 off the clock, capping it with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Hills to Jacobs with 3:23 to play in the game.

“Everybody is upset,” Frey said. “Guys are sick of losing. It’s something we don’t do. Five straight (losses) isn’t who we are. We’ve just got take it day by day and try and get better. Clearly, we’re not getting the job done as a team.”