It was a similar story for Maryland on Saturday against Michigan State. Plagued by turnovers and unable to get the offense moving, the Terrapins lost their grip on what was a close football game for a time in a 24-7 loss to the Spartans in East Lansing.
Here are five things you need to know.
1) Injury forces Michigan State star QB out of the game
After quarterback Connor Cook took a shot from defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue on Michigan State’s first drive, the Spartans inserted backup Tyler O’Connor, who led a 10-play touchdown drive.
Cook re-entered the game and was hit by Maryland defensive lineman Jesse Aniebonam, exiting the game again with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. He would again come back into the game.
At halftime, though, Cook was replaced for good by O’Connor. Against a Maryland team that was getting pressure on the quarterback while being unable to do much on the other side of the ball, it was worth the risk for the Spartans to sit Cook down.
Cook was 6-of-20 in the first half for 77 yards, clearly unable to make the full repertoire of throws that he typically does. In relief, O’Connor finished 6-of-11 for 44 yards.
2) Special teams issues
Lou Groza Award-winning kicker Brad Craddock was out after undergoing surgery a week ago to repair a dislocated bone in his wrist.
Punter Nicolas Pritchard was yanked after punting the ball 11 yards in the second quarter. Replacement Lee Shrader came in and punted the ball 19 yards on the attempt after Pritchard’s. All of those issues combined to give Michigan State good field position and put the defense in a tough position.
3) Perry Hills strong, then struggles
Hills started out 5-of-7 passing early against Michigan State. Just 1-of-11 passing followed, coinciding with offensive stagnation in the first half and a pick-six by the Spartan defense that gave Michigan State a 14-7 lead.
Caleb Rowe was inserted in different capacities in passing situations, but he struggled as well. Hills was 14-of-30 passing for 140 yards and an interception. Rowe was 3-of-5 for 42 yards and two interceptions.
4) Too many turnovers (again)
Entering the game already as the team with the worst turnover margin in the country, it only got worse for Maryland on Saturday. The Terrapins turned the ball over five times (once on a Hills interception, another two by Rowe, plus two fumbles) and forced three themselves for a net of -2.
The game was tied, as mentioned above, before Hills’ pick six. A Caleb Rowe interception just before halftime gave the Spartans another opportunity to score before the break and they capitalized with a field goal.
The turnovers put an incredible stress on the defense. Even when they themselves are able to force three turnovers, the four on the other side make the hole too large to get out of.
5) Ngakoue gets closer
Maryland defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue inched closer toward tying the school’s single-season sack record on Saturday, registering a sack to put him at 12 on the season. That is good for second in the nation and he is now just one shy of the school record of 13.