Second Half Adjustments, Littleton’s 100-Yard Performance Carry Maryland Over Michigan State

In the first game inside SECU Stadium, Maryland avenged its first loss of the season with a 27-13 win over Michigan State.

Maryland amassed just shy of 500 yards of offense, finishing with 489 yards, while quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa finished 32-of-41 for 314 yards and one touchdown. “I’ll take my hat off to that kid. You guys have no idea what the last 24 to 48 hours has been like for him and for him to be able to compartmentalize and get himself ready to play,” head coach Mike Locksley said after the win. Still, it was a new face who was the face of Maryland’s offense on Saturday as running back Antwain Littleton led the offense with 120 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries, securing his first career 100-yard game.

“Obviously minus the four cracks we had at the one yard line after the long run, ‘Twan has played really good football for us and he kind of had the hot hand today and, you know, we left him in there and fed him. And with a big body guy like that, he wears down defenses and eventually, you know, something’s gonna pop. He brings something to the team in the passing game, caught a few balls, and then also is really improved in his past protection.”

Both teams traded touchdowns on their first respective drives while Maryland punched it in on its second drive, extending the lead to 14-7, but the Spartans would cut the deficit to one after Jayden Reed found the endzone for the first time this season before botching the extra point. It would prove to the closest the Spartans got all day as Rakim Jarrett found the endzone nearly four minutes later to give Maryland a 21-13 halftime lead.

Maryland was on the cusp of a second opportunity to tack on points heading into halftime, though. Inside the final minute, Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne overthrew Jayden Reed, who tipped the ball in the air and into safety Dante Trader’s hands for what looked to be his second interception of the season. But a questionable personal foul called on Corey Coley not only negated the change in possession but gave the Spartans a chance to cut into Maryland’s eight-point lead. Maryland answered the call as the special teams unit blocked a 33-yard attempt in the final play of the half, its first blocked kick of the season.

After allowing nearly 250 yards of offense in the first half, Maryland’s defense allowed just 75 yards of offense, including eight yards in the third quarter, while pitching a shutout in the second half.

Maryland was able to identify Michigan State’s expected plays and tendencies thanks to their formations, helping to stifle the Spartans offense in the final 30 minutes. “To me, this is the third game in the row where our defensive staff led by coach [Brian] Williams has done a tremendous job of making the necessary adjustments at half and coming out and playing really good defense for us. Big Ten wins are special. They’re hard and we knew we’d see Michigan State’s best.”

“They wanted us to as a defense, recognize the formations they were coming out in,” linebacker Ahmad McCullough added. “One formation that they came out in consecutively in the first and second quarter were formation ‘U-go’ that we kind of identified the formation. It’s two tight ends off the ball but kind of attached to the core and they were either run fall back, boot and kind of mess with our eyes as defenders, get the edge on us and quick pass. We just wanted to understand and ID the formations that we were given because we know our calls but once we understand where they are at on the field, certain guys, because once you understand where they’re at, you can kind of get what they’re trying to do.”

While Maryland will look to get to 5-1 for the first time under Locksley, Maryland’s fourth-year head coach cautioned there’s still room to grow.

“We still have a lot of work to do and I do love coaching this group of guys, man. One of the things that’s been rewarding and encouraging for me is just how these guys have really bought into everything we’ve asked them to do as coaches. And the player lead culture, you’re starting to see it come to fruition. And so, I really enjoy coaching these guys. In year four this is where we want to be. Now what we’ve gotta do is take it one week at a time and really put the work in Monday through Friday and good things tend to happen Saturday when you do that. I think they’ve embraced that philosophy.”

Maryland will host Purdue next Saturday, October 8 for a 12 PM kickoff.

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