Two losing streaks enter, one leaves Saturday against MSU

By: Austin Kleber

Only one team will leave Maryland Stadium with a desperately needed victory Saturday when the Terrapins take on the Michigan State Spartans.

Maryland (4-2) enters with a two-game losing streak after being blown out in consecutive weeks by Penn State and Minnesota. Michigan State (2-4) is on a four-game skid and coming off a 54-40 loss at home against Northwestern.

“This is how you find out what you’re made of,” head coach DJ Durkin said. “My disappointment [against Minnesota] comes from the fact that I don’t think we provided our best effort. We had a bunch of turnovers and a lot of sloppy play altogether. Ultimately, that falls on me. I can assure you that will be corrected. “

A win is crucial for both teams as they look forward to bowl season. Following a contest at Indiana next week, the Terps will play No. 3 Michigan, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 8 Nebraska in consecutive weeks. The Spartans also have Michigan and Ohio State left on their schedule.

Maryland’s best chances at reaching the six wins needed to clinch a bowl game come against Michigan State and Rutgers, making this game more meaningful for the fans, if not the team.

From the outside looking in, it would seem this game means a little extra to Durkin, but that’s not the case. The former Michigan defensive coordinator suffered a heartbreaking loss on a last-second blocked punt touchdown against MSU last year.

“I can tell you this, and he’ll see this with a sense of pride, there has been absolutely zero difference in our head football coach,” offensive coordinator Walt Bell said. “He is quite possibly the most intense dude that I’ve ever been around. It is a well that does not dry up, or has not dried up yet, from the first day we got here as a full staff sometime in January until right now.”

The Terps and Spartans share one more similarity: quarterback injuries.

Maryland quarterback Perry Hills is questionable with a shoulder injury he suffered against Penn State, which kept him out of the Minnesota game last week. If Hills does not play, freshman Tyrrell Pigrome will make the calls under center.

“For [Pigrome] to have to learn on the fly is difficult, but [we’re] doing everything [we] can in the meeting room to try to eliminate as many of those possible issues as you can and try to put him in stressful situations,” Bell said. “The good news is that he’s already starting to get some of those repetitions that will benefit him for the rest of his career. The bad news is that he’s getting those repetitions in right now and he’s going to make mistakes with that.”

Last week in Pigrome’s first career start, he completed 18 of 37 passes for 161 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran the ball for 71 yards, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry.

“There’s only one way to learn and that’s through failure,” Bell said. “What really separates the good [quarterbacks] and bad ones to me is their ability to handle that failure. I think [Pigrome] is a confident kid. There’s not a worry in his body. With every mistake, he’s learning and finding a way to get better next time.”

Michigan State quarterback Tyler O’Connor injured his foot and will not play. In his place will be freshman quarterback Brian Lewerke.

Like Pigrome, Lewerke also made his first career start last week. He threw for 99 yards and one touchdown on 12-of-19 passing against Northwestern.

With inexperienced quarterbacks playing, the key for both defenses will be stopping the run game.

Maryland’s rushing attack has been stunted by stiff defense the last two games, as the team averaged only 150 yards per game in those contests after averaging 300 in the first four games.

“We’re just not really playing up to our standards right now,” offensive lineman Michael Dunn said. “It’s nobody’s fault. We all can do a better job. We watched film, saw the mistakes, saw what has to get better and what can get better.”

After allowing Minnesota to gain 229 yards on the ground, the Terps look to contain Michigan State’s rushing attack, which is ranked 13th in the Big Ten with 136 yards per game.

The series history is rather lopsided—Michigan State leads 6-1 with a 2-0 record in College Park—but fans should expect a tight game, as the Spartans are only 2.5-point favorites.

“They attack a lot of parts on the field. They have a lot of formations,” defensive end Roman Braglio said. “They’re just a hard-nosed football team. It’s going to be a tough game.  Michigan State is a good football club and a good program. We’re going to be ready.”

The game kicks off under the lights Saturday at 7:30. Listen live as Jake Eisenberg and Megan Smedley have the call on