Instant Reactions: Maryland 27, Michigan State 13

Maryland’s offense showed up and after amassing nearly 500 yards of total offense, Maryland remained perfect at home this season after beating Michigan State 27-13. Instant reactions as Maryland football now moves to 4-1:

  • Offensively, Maryland was moving the ball at will through the first quarter. Behind 10-of-11 passing from Taulia early, Maryland generated 169 yards of offense with just 38 coming on the ground. Still, the run game loomed large with both Antwain Littleton and Colby McDonald finding the endzone first, but the big plays through the air helped up the balanced offense. After failing to establish a vertical threat through the first four weeks of the season, Maryland flipped the script against the Spartans. On 3rd and four early in the first quarter, Tagovailoa found Dontay Demus for his first catch of the game. The next play, Hemby took a swing pass 20 yards to get to midfield. Two plays later, Tagovailoa then found Jacob Copeland to set the offense up just outside of the redzone. On the very next drive, Taulia found TE Corey Dyches for a 44-yard completion as the offense maintained its momentum. After the first two drives ended in touchdowns, Maryland’s offense had consecutive three-and-outs before a 13-play drive resulted in the third touchdown of the game just prior to halftime. WR Rakim Jarrett, who battled back all week, reeled in the five-yard catch on first down out of trips formation. Maryland’s passing attack was firing on all cylinders despite the on-and-off rain as Tagovailoa finished 32-of-41 for 314 yards and one touchdown and completed passes to ten different players.
  • The only problem for Maryland? Michigan State’s offense was on point early with little chance for Maryland’s defense to stop them. Missed tackles plagued the Terps on the opening defensive drive as the Spartans capped off an eight play drive with a 12-yard rushing touchdown. On the next drive, Michigan State turned in a drive that drove them inside Maryland’s redzone, but a penalty set them back and Jakorian Bennett played the boundary well on 3rd down to force a field goal attempt. The third down stop was the first break for Maryland’s defense on the day and they were rewarded after the Spartans’ 33-yard field goal attempt sailed right, keeping Maryland ahead 14-7 early in the first half. Maryland’s defense in the second half, though, came to play as defensive coordinator Brian Williams made the necessary adjustments. Caleb Wheatland and Jaishawn Barham once again started in the second half, while Maryland was able to pressure the Spartans’ offense to force four consecutive three-and-outs. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Taizse Johnson registered his first sack of the season which proved the be the lone sack on the day. Through the first 20 minutes of the second half, the Spartans totaled just 12 yards of offense as the improved efficiency gave Maryland an opportunity to extend its lead to double-digits.
  • After Rakim Jarrett found the endzone for Maryland’s third touchdown with under one minute left in the first half, the Terps’ eight-point lead nearly had a chance to get extended even further–even the refs once again made a head-scratching call. After Payton Thorne overthrew Jayden Reed, Reed tipped the ball and set Dante Trader up for an interception return down to the Michigan State one-yard line with a chance for Maryland to extend its lead to double-digits. The momentum-swinging play was not just called back, but Michigan State regained possession after Corey Coley was called for a personal foul that negated the play. Michigan State was unable to capitalize on its luck as its field goal attempt with seconds remaining was blocked by cornerback Jakorian Bennett, but still, Maryland missed an opportunity to extend its lead and deliver a blow to the Spartans on the road.

  • While much has been made of Maryland’s new kicker with Chad Ryland knocking through 23 consecutive field goals entering Saturday, it was everyone else who stuck out in Saturday’s game. Maryland’s coverage didn’t allow Jayden Reed to pick up any yards on his first punt return attempt then to close the first half, Jakorian Bennett came up big to register the first blocked field goal of the season. On the flip side, Colton Spangler logged a 56-yard punt while Jacob Copeland almost took the opening kickoff to midfield before a penalty brought the ball back to the Terps’ 7.
  • Austin Fontaine sporadically lined up at defensive end in the win, but Maryland tapped into the positional versatility that he brings to the team. The former lineman began his college career on the defensive side of the ball before lining up at offensive line and tight end, but moved back to defense this season. On Saturday, though, Fontaine entered the game on a pair of short-yardage plays to give Maryland an extra blocker opposite of CJ Dippre. The results of both plays? First downs for Maryland’s offense. Fontaine also lined up at defensive end sporadically on Saturday.
  • Maryland’s rushing attack was led by Antwain Littleton on Saturday, complementing the passing attack’s efficiency. Maryland turned to the second-year player in multiple key situations, including a pair of fourth downs that Littleton converted on the ground. Littleton was rewarded for his first fourth down conversion after he found the endzone on a 14-yard rush on the very next play. To kick off the fourth quarter, Littleton broke to the sideline, hit a stiff arm, and broke a tackle on a 68-yard run to set Maryland’s offense inside the Michigan State one. After four consecutive rushes, though, Littleton couldn’t punch it in but forced the Spartans to take over inside their own one-yard line. Still, the big plays that head coach Mike Locksley often cited as a key need all offseason were evident with Littleton consistently breaking into the second level. Maryland will review the tape to improve redzone efficiency with a backfield of Joseph Bearns blocking for Littleton, but the former St. John’s star recorded his first career 100-yard performance, finishing with 120 yards and one touchdown on 19 attempts. Hemby also rushed for 27 yards on nine carries, McDonald added ten yards and one touchdown on three carries while Taulia added another 18 yards on four rushes.
  • Maryland came up big on key plays in the win, starting with 7-of-16 on third down and 2-for-3 on fourth down. Maryland also finished 4-of-8 on third downs with four or less yards to go while averaging under five needed yards on all third down attempts. When it came to execution, two weeks after committing 15 penalties and one week after committing just one penalty, Maryland nearly hit its average as the team endured seven penalties for 61 yards. Michigan State was able to pick up three first downs due to penalty.

Injuries & Notes

  • While both QB Taulia Tagovailoa and WR Rakim Jarrett were active, LB Ruben Hyppolite missed his second consecutive game after dealing with an ankle injury. SAF Glen Miller, RB Challen Faamatau and CB Lionell Whitaker also did not dress on Saturday.
  • On the Terps’ first drive of the game, Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa found RB Roman Hemby for a 20-yard game. The completion pushed Taulia over 6,000 passing yards in his career, becoming the fastest Maryland quarterback to accomplish the feat. Tagovailoa also passed Boomer Esiason for second on Maryland’s career passing list and registered his 13th career 300-yard passing game, tying Scott Milanovich for the most in program history.
  • RB Antwain Littleton scored the game’s opening touchdown, giving him his sixth consecutive game with at least one touchdown. Littleton ties former RB Josh Ball (2005-2006) for the longest streak in program history. Colby McDonald, meanwhile, scored his first touchdown since the week two win at Charlotte.
  • Kicker Chad Ryland converted a 43-yard field goal midway through the third quarter, his 24th consecutive made field goal to tie the Big Ten record. Ryland missed the potential record-breaking kick with his 50-yard attempt sailing wide, but converted his next 50-yard attempt to push Maryland’s lead to 27-13.
  • Freshmen LB Jaishawn Barham and Caleb Wheatland made the start on Saturday, the fifth consecutive start for Barham and the first career start for Wheatland. Barham entered Saturday with the fifth-most tackles of any freshman in FBS.

Next: Maryland hosts Purdue next Saturday, October 8 for a 12 PM kickoff at SECU Stadium.

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