Maryland looks to continue surge vs. Michigan State

NCAA Football

Maryland and Michigan State hope to regain some respectability in the Big Ten Conference… if they can manage to even get on the field this weekend.

The Terrapins (2-1, 2-1 Big Ten) paused all team activities last week with eight cases of COVID-19 among the team and canceled a visit from No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday. It has cast doubt on this Saturday’s scheduled home game against Michigan State (1-3, 1-3).

“We knew heading into this adjusted season that there could be hiccups along the way,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley said. “Much how we’ve addressed and managed working through these things during the 2020 season, we wake up and we deal with the rules that we’re given for that day.”

The Terrapins quarantined at a hotel for five days before returning to campus Sunday. Maryland practiced inside Cole Field House on campus on Tuesday night. The Big Ten tests all football players daily for COVID-19.

The Spartans, 1-3 for the first time since 2009, have questions of their own. Michigan State has lost two in a row by a combined 73-7 score, including last Saturday’s 24-0 loss to No. 10 Indiana.

Turnovers have hurt the Spartans, including seven in a season-opening defeat against Rutgers. There were seven more the last two games. The Spartans’ only victory was against Michigan when they didn’t have any miscues.

“We have to give ourselves a better chance to win,” first-year Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said. “Turnovers, penalties and field position, those things are very, very obvious. If you take care of the ball, you’re penalty-free and you win the field position battle, you give yourself a much better chance to win. And games we’ve lost, we haven’t done that.”

The Spartan offense stalled the last two weeks after a 27-24 upset at then-No. 13 Michigan on Oct. 31. Redshirt junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi threw for 642 yards and six touchdowns the team’s first two contests, but his performance has dropped off recently with five interceptions and no scores the last two games.

Redshirt freshman Payton Thorne replaced Lombardi at Iowa in a 49-7 loss, shared snaps with him against Indiana and Tucker indicated “nothing was set in stone” as far the starter moving forward.

The Terrapins’ surprising turnaround after a season-opening loss to Northwestern has been fueled by sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, who has accounted for eight touchdowns to power Maryland’s first two-game, in-season conference winning streak since joining the Big Ten in 2014.

Tagovailoa will go against a new 4-2-5 Michigan State defense that was having trouble adapting even before several starters missed time. Maryland’s top three wide receivers – Dontay Demus Jr., Rakim Jarrett and Jeshaun Jones – have combined for five touchdown receptions the last two games.

Senior linebacker Antjuan Simmons leads the Spartans with 40 tackles, second in the Big Ten. Maryland’s Chance Campbell is tied for seventh in the conference with 33 tackles. But Maryland’s defense is yielding a conference-high 474 yards per game.

Michigan State leads the all-time series with Maryland, 9-2, including a 19-16 victory last season.

–Field Level Media

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