Final score: No. 17 Michigan State 17 Maryland 7
For the better part of the 60-minute contest, this game looked like it was being played inside a snow globe rather than Spartan Stadium. It was cold, wet and wintery in East Lansing as Michigan State closed out its home schedule against Maryland.
Michigan State made just enough plays early in the game to break out to a two-touchdown lead, which was nearly impossible for the Terrapins to overcome considering the circumstances. L.J. Scott wore down the Maryland defense, rushing for 147 yards while fellow running back Gerald Holmes added 64 yards and Brian Lewerke pitched in 63 yards.
Despite the Terrapins’ late push, scoring a touchdown late in the game and knocking on the door of adding more points to the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, Michigan State’s defense held off Maryland and dashed its bowl hopes.
Key play: Matt Coghlin’s field goal in the third quarter
Look, this doesn’t sound like a key play, but in that climate Coghlin’s kick was essentially the game-winner. His 27-yard attempt gave the Spartans a 17-0 lead in the third quarter, which proved to be insurmountable.
In any other circumstance, a chip shot field goal wouldn’t be a key play. But the kick essentially put the game out of reach as Maryland couldn’t get anything moving thanks to the Spartan defense and sloppy weather.
Stat of the game: Michigan State’s 271 rushing yards
Running the football in that type of atmosphere was crucial. The Spartans weren’t jamming the ball down Maryland’s throat, but they were effective enough to get to the end zone a few times. They also got production for a variety of players, including Scott, Holmes and Lewerke.
Plus, your rushing attack better be pretty sound when you only have 20 passing yards. In case you missed that stat, Lewerke finished with just two completions on 14 attempts.
What it means
This felt like a game Michigan State was going to win relatively easily, but getting to eight wins with a chance to finish the year with nine is a phenomenal accomplishment considering where this team was a year ago. A win over Maryland at Spartan Stadium, even in front of a sparse crowd, was a great way to send the seniors out.
Maryland continues to show a lot of fight. The Terrapins were outmatched in this contest and continued to cause problems for the Spartans. That’s commendable for a team that’s endured so many injury woes this season.
It won’t result in a postseason appearance, but Maryland will have something to build on next season.