MSU 'D' seeks to restore fierce reputation vs. Maryland
East Lansing — There were some irritable Spartans hanging around the Duffy Daugherty building this week. Not surprisingly, most of those guys were members of Michigan State’s defense.
That will happen when you’re coming off a 48-3 loss, one that was not only the worst in the Mark Dantonio era but also included Ohio State running the ball for 335 yards. That, too, was a record, and not the kind that ends up on a plaque somewhere or highlighted in a media guide.
It was one that had a defense in a foul mood, one that was fouler considering the Spartans have done such a good job this season stopping the run. They entered last week’s game with the Buckeyes giving up less than 90 yards a game on the ground while not allowing a 100-yard rusher.
Ohio State had two in one game.
“I just think that’s human nature,” defensive ends coach and special teams coordinator Mark Snyder said. “If you’re competitive … obviously, we didn’t play well, we didn’t play our best football. I think that these kids are made of the right stuff that they’re going to come out and do what they know they can do.”
No. 22 Michigan State will look to do that in the final home game of the season when Maryland comes into Spartan Stadium for a 4 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.
It’s a chance to not only bounce back and finish the season strong, but a chance for the defense to re-establish itself. It was one of the top-ranked units in the nation last week, and even after allowing 524 yards to the Buckeyes, it still ranks 10th in the nation in rushing defense and 23rd in total defense.
So, the bottom has hardly dropped, but the Spartans (7-3, 5-2 Big Ten) are itching to prove they’re better than what they showed against Ohio State.
“It’s not something we can skip over, we’ve got to learn what we can learn from the film and then move on and that’s what we’ve done,” junior safety Khari Willis said. “We’ve got to wake up the next day and we’ve got to play Maryland, we’ve got to play Rutgers. The things that we wanted a week ago maybe aren’t in front of us, but there’s still a lot of great things that we can accomplish as a team.”
A shot at finishing first in the Big Ten East was still in front of Michigan State last week, not to mention a shot at reaching the conference title game. Willis is right, that is likely gone and could be certain by kickoff, but the chance at nine wins and a top bowl game is still out there.
And considering how things went last season, the Spartans are focusing on that, especially a defense that is getting ready to face a Maryland running attack that has had its share of success this season. The Terrapins (4-6, 2-5) also have something to play for — two wins will get them in a bowl game. That means the Spartans’ defense needs to be ready for anything.
“I think we all factor that in exactly where every football team is, including ours right now; we're in the same mindset,” Dantonio said. “Last week you saw them fake a punt against Michigan. They're going to try to do what they can do.
“You're going to see different things that maybe you haven't seen throughout the season. Maybe see some other trick plays. But you have to factor, I think, all that in as they've got to win.”
What the Terrapins will almost certainly do is try and run the ball the same way Ohio State did. It was the formula for success last season when Maryland beat Michigan State as it had two backs run for more than 100 yards.
Ty Johnson gained 115 yards for the Terps while Lorenzo Harrison had 105. They’ve been solid again this season as Johnson had run for 770 yards and five touchdowns while Harrison has gained 512 yards and scored twice.
“Last year’s loss to Maryland, that was kind of one of the tougher losses for us as a group last year,” Willis said. “Obviously, a lot of us are back so we still feel some type of way about that loss. I feel that maybe, hopefully, we can channel that positively.”
If they do, the Spartans will be well on the way to closing the season strong and putting the Ohio State loss in the past.
“The focus here on these next two games is going to be intense, not just from a coaching perspective but from our player perspective,” Dantonio said. “I guess we need to see the product of that. We need to see wins on the field. We need to see us playing hard.
“My job is to make sure we're ready to go. We'll be ready to go. I think winning nine games is different from winning seven, there's no question about that. Our goal is to finish out. Our goal is to win 10 football games this season. I think that would be a tremendous thing that we've done.”
MARYLAND AT MICHIGAN STATE
Kickoff: 4 Saturday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Records: Maryland 4-6, 2-5 Big Ten; Michigan State 7-3, 5-2
Line: MSU by 15