Michigan State capped a rough week for the unsettled Maryland football program, using a stout defensive performance to defeat the punchless Terrapins 24-3 Saturday.
Connor Heyward ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns to help the Spartans (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten) become a bowl eligible for the second year in a row following a 3-9 stumble in 2016.
The Terrapins (5-4, 3-3) managed only 100 yards and nine first downs for interim coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
It was a sobering ending to a bizarre week for Maryland. On Tuesday, head coach DJ Durkin was reinstated by the University System board of regents following a probe into the culture of the football program. The investigation was launched soon after University president Wallace Loh acknowledged in August that “mistakes were made” in the treatment of Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who collapsed during an offseason workout and died two weeks later of heatstroke.
The decision to bring Durkin back from paid administrative leave created such a furor among students and politicians that Loh fired Durkin on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the board of regents chairman resigned from his post.
Several outlets reported that three players walked out of a meeting with Durkin on Tuesday. After practice that day, the backup punter, who had spoken out about the coaching staff, was reportedly assaulted by a teammate who supported Durkin.
Coming off all those distractions, the Terrapins were looking to become bowl eligible with their third win in four games. Instead, they fell behind early and never got the offense working.
Maryland’s effort to come back was thwarted by two fourth-quarter turnovers. Javon Leake lost a fumble on the MSU 26 and Byron Cowart fumbled on an interception return with the Spartans recovering in the end zone for a touchback.
On the next play, Heyward ran for an 80-yard touchdown for a 24-3 lead with 11 minutes left.
Maryland’s strong running game was limited to 26 yards (on 29 carries) by the nation’s top-ranked rushing defense. Kasim Hill went 8 for 21 for 74 yards for the Terps on a very windy day.
Michigan State: The Spartans didn’t get much production from senior quarterback Brian Lewerke, who returned from a shoulder injury to go 11 for 20 for 87 yards and an interception before being replaced by redshirt freshman Rocky Lombardi. There’s work to be done in the passing game, but the defense is good enough to make up for that and keep Michigan State competitive against any foe.
Maryland: When the Terps are bad, they’re bad. Maryland’s one-dimensional offense sputtered again, and those two turnovers in the fourth quarter didn’t help. Maryland’s four losses this season have come by a combined 86 points.
Terrapins defensive tackle Mbi Tanyi was ejected in the second quarter for throwing a punch at a Michigan State player.
Michigan State: The Spartans host No. 8 Ohio State in a Big Ten East Division matchup
Maryland: The Terrapins travel to Indiana.
Source: The Associated Press