December 7, 2019

Maryland Football: Offense continues to do defense no favors as Terps get dropped by Spartans without Connor Cook

Maryland thought they were going to face off against their third undefeated team last week, but in a stunning upset the Michigan State Spartans lost on a controversial touchdown call. The Terps defense came out aggressive as usual with a bevy of unique blitzes that eventually knocked Connor Cook out of the game. However, the offense could not sustain much outside of a single touchdown drive and consistently lost the field position battle due to turnovers (5) and poor punting. At the end of it all, Maryland fell 24-7 and to a record of miserable record of 2-8.

As has now been common for the Terps to start the game, things started out well for Maryland. After giving up one first down, the defense was able to pressure Connor Cook into two straight incompletions to force a punt. Maryland was approaching midfield on offense thanks to a pass interference penalty drawn by DeAndre Lane on an underthrown deep ball from Perry Hills. Then everything started to fall apart. Wes Brown, who got his first start of the season over senior running back Brandon Ross, was loose with the football and fumbled to give the Spartans a short field.

Although Connor Cook seemed to be uninjured after taking a couple hits on the previous drive, Michigan State opted to put in backup quarterback Tyler O’Connor. Having never thrown a pass this season, O’Connor was an efficient 4 of 5 passing for 30 yards including two third down conversions. O’Connor was poised in the pocket and found Macgarrett Kings Jr., who beat Will Likely, for a 10-yard touchdown.

The rout was not quite on yet as Maryland responded with a 10-play 91 yard drive that lasted just over two minutes. Such was the Terps longest drive of the year. The big play to get out of the shadow of their own goal post, was a play action strike to a diving Levern Jacobs for a 37 yard gain. Brandon Ross had a good all around drive after having a key pass protection block to set up a goal-to-go situation, coming off of converting a third down. Likely nearly scored his first offensive touchdown on a screen pattern but after review was correctly ruled down at the one, which Ross cleaned up for a Maryland touchdown.

After going from presumably healthy and out of the game, Connor Cook came back in just to come out. On the second play of the Spartan’s third drive, Cook had plenty of time to throw and completed a pass for a gain of 21, but was slammed to the ground by Jesse Aniebonam. Cook would have to come out of the game with a right shoulder injury that had him grimacing in pain. Maryland would be able to force a punt after an offensive holding call and Yannick Ngakoue‘s 12th sack of the year.

(Photo by: @MSU_Football)

(Photo by: @MSU_Football)

The Terps could get anything going deep in their own territory and were forced to punt, but were gifted by forced fumble from their defense. However, Maryland again could do nothing and went three-and-out that resulted in a shanked 11-yard punt by Nicholas Pritchard. Cook would come back into the game and target Likely’s replacement (no injury just rest), Darnell Savage, for a big third-down conversion. However, Terps would force a field goal attempt on a pass breakup from senior defensive back A.J. Hendy. The Spartans opted to go for a fake field goal run with their kicker that was blown up for a huge loss by defensive lineman Ty Tucker.

For the third straight drive, Maryland went three-and-out and found themselves with a 19 yard punt from Pritchard’s replacement Lee Shrader. Even with starting in Maryland territory, the Spartans were unable to get points on the board. After Gerald Holmes moved the pile for 14 yards and a first down near the red zone, Cook tried to take a shot to the end zone that he under threw and was picked off by another senior defensive back Anthony Nixon.

Again Maryland’s offense could not do much besides a single first down conversion and after a 29 yard punt from Shrader, Michigan State again had their drive start in plus territory. But yet again the Terps defense came together to stifle the Spartans offense and force a punt. After a designed quarterback run for Hills to pick up 32 yards and possibly look for a score before halftime, Maryland had their usual collapse. On a third-and-10 play, Hills threw an interception that was easily returned for a touchdown.

After a couple of three and outs from both sides, Mike Locksley inserted more passing oriented quarterback Caleb Rowe with one minute left in the half. Rowe maintained his rap sheet as a turnover machine as he threw his FBS leading 14th interception, in about a third as many pass attempts as UVA’s Matt Johns. Michigan State tacked on another field goal before the end of the half and held a commanding 17-7 lead despite great defensive efforts by Maryland.

The offense for Maryland has never done the defense any favors this year. That continued as Hills went three and out to start the second half and it was only an amount of time before the defense would wear down. Michigan State would start wearing down the tired defense. On 11 straight rushes, the Spartans gained 62 yards that was capped off by a Gerald Holmes plunged into the end zone from three yards out. All of this came with Connor Cook back sitting on the bench with his shoulder injury.

There was a small glimmer of hope for the Terps offense when Wes Brown rushed for back to back double yard gains. Hills would later convert on a fourth down by escaping pressure from two Spartans and turning up field. Three plays later, it was Brandon Ross’s turn to put the ball on the ground for Maryland’s fourth turnover of the game. Both teams would trade punts before following that up by trading turnovers.

The game was dragged out after two more Spartans punt around a Terps turnover on downs. Caleb Rowe would come in to end the game during garbage time to throw his 15th interception of the year. The misery would end once the Spartans took a couple knees as Maryland well to 2-8 with a 24-7 loss. The best two chances of Big Ten wins were known to be these last two at the end of the season vs. Indiana and at Rutgers, but even that might hard to come out with a victory.

About Neil Dalal

Neil Dalal is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins, Wizards, and Maryland Terrapins. Neil grew up in Silver Spring, MD and attends the University of Maryland. Neil has loved everything related to the Redskins, Wizards, Capitals, and Terrapins since he was eight years old. However, he favors the Orioles, as he started watching baseball before the Expos moved to DC. You can follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.


  1. […] has inserted a cold Rowe into the game with the hopes of moving the ball down the field quickly. Last week after Hills threw a pick-6, Rowe came in to throw his FBS leading 14th interception (he would […]

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