Michigan State loses Cook, still takes care of Maryland
Final: No. 13 Michigan State 24, Maryland 7
Key play: Riley Bullough 44-yard interception touchdown return
You knew that it was going to happen eventually…Maryland turning the ball over, that is. In typical Terps fashion, they shot themselves in the foot in a tie game by turning the ball over on a poor decision from Perry Hills. Credit Bullough for making a play in the open field and not tripping on his own feet, but that was about as easy a defensive touchdown as he’ll get. Darian Hicks delivered a monster block to free up Bullough for the final 20 yards of the return. It was exactly the type of play MSU needed to go into the half with a little bit of momentum after a brutal offensive start.
Telling stat: MSU scores all 17 first-half points off turnovers
Maryland could’ve put itself in prime position the way the MSU struggled to move the ball in the first half. Instead, the Terps repeatedly gave away opportunities throughout the first half. Three different times, Maryland gave the Spartans prime field position and they capitalized. Mike Locksley even put in Caleb Rowe to try and provide a spark after Hills threw that crushing first-half pick. He then promptly tossed an interception on his first pass. Instead of potentially taking a late first-half lead, Maryland found itself trailing by double digits. The nation’s most turnover-prone team picked a bad time to show its true colors.
-Cook out for second half
It was an odd first half for the Michigan State quarterback. He started the game but came out on the second series, and he didn’t appear to have an injury. Then he came back in and injured his shoulder after taking a big hit, but tried to play through it. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. Cook was clearly not himself and completed just six of his 20 passes, including one under-thrown pick. With the way Tyler O’Connor played in the first half in relief of Cook, it made perfect sense to turn the reins over to the backup and let Cook wear a headset for the second half. Having him gut out the second half against Maryland a week before the Ohio State game wouldn’t have made much sense. But Cook’s status will obviously be worth monitoring throughout the week.
–Yannick Ngakoue one sack away from single-season sack record
Ngakoue has arguably been the top pass-rusher in the B1G this year. He continued his dominance again on Saturday. Even against an All-American candidate like Jack Conklin, he still found a way to get to Cook for a big early takedown. He finished with 1.5 sacks, which put him one short of the program’s single-season record of 13.5. With all that’s gone wrong for the Terps, Ngakoue has been one of the things that’s gone right. If the Terps could actually put themselves in position to have meaningful third downs late, they would have quite the weapon coming off the edge.
What it means: MSU still has same stakes for OSU game
Despite the Nebraska loss last week, the Spartans are still in shape to compete for exactly what they were hoping to compete for against an Ohio State. A B1G East title could still be on the line, and ultimately, the right to play for a College Football Playoff berth. It hasn’t been the season the Spartans necessarily hoped for, but it’s hard to ask for much more than a shot at the B1G East. As long as MSU is somewhat healthy by next week, we should be in for quite the showdown in Columbus.