COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A heavily banged-up Malik McDowell gave chase. Perry Hills dashed away from him and threw the ball.
Levern Jacobs got free from Michigan State’s young defenders in the back of the end zone.
Touchdown. Ball game. And for the Spartans, almost certainly the season.
The Terrapins scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away to a 28-17 victory Saturday night at Maryland Stadium.
The Spartans (2-5, 0-4) have lost five straight for the first time since 1991. It’s their first time losing four straight to open Big Ten play since since opening the 1982 season under Muddy Waters, with George Perles going 0-4-1 to open the 1983 campaign.
This is the longest losing streak in Mark Dantonio’s 13 seasons as a college head coach. The Spartans face Michigan next week.
Captain Riley Bullough was ejected late in the first quarter after a targeting penalty. The senior linebacker delivered a big hit on the Terrapins’ D.J. Moore, his helmet colliding with the Terrapins wide receiver’s with 4:39 remaining in the opening quarter. It was Bullough’s third 15-yard penalty of the game.
Because it occurred in the first half, Bullough will not have to sit out next week’s game against Michigan.
Brian Lewerke received his second collegiate start at quarterback, with Dantonio telling Big Ten Network before kickoff that senior Tyler O’Connor was “nicked up a little bit.”
Maryland started quarterback Perry Hills after he missed last week’s loss to Minnesota with a shoulder injury. And the senior led a pair of long touchdown drives while going 14 of 18 for 129 yards in the first half.
Lewerke was intercepted on his second pass attempt, a deep throw to Donnie Corley that got caught up in the wind and fell into the arms of Maryland cornerback Alvin Hill at the Terps’ 4-yard line.
On the second play of Maryland’s drive, Bullough was called for roughing the passer after Hills’ 22-yard pass. The linebacker made a stop on the next play for a 6-yard loss, then received his third 15-yard penalty with the targeting call and ejection with 4:39 left in the opening quarter.
Hills kept moving the chains, with Lorenzo Harrison finishing off the nine-play, 96-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run.
The Spartans got on the board early in the second quarter after a 24-yard run by Lewerke and a 15-yard pass to R.J. Shelton. LJ Scott followed strong blocks from tight end Matt Sokol and fullback Prescott Line around the left end, dashing up the sideline for 48 yards and slipping a tackle attempt. The touchdown is the longest run of his career.
MSU again pinned Maryland deep in its own territory, but it wouldn’t last long. Ty Johnson ran the first play 40 yards to midfield. Four plays later, the Spartans had a coverage breakdown and Hills found a wide open Moore behind safety Demetrious Cox for a 36-yard touchdown pass. The kick failed, making it 14-7.
MSU tied the game late in the second quarter with a methodical march of its own. Gerald Holmes picked up 50 of the 74 yards on the drive, capping it with a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 38 seconds left before half.
Linebacker Chris Frey stripped the ball from Harrison with 14 seconds left, with David Dowell recovering and giving MSU the ball at Terps’ 49.
Lewerke hit Shelton for 21 yards to get the Spartans to Maryland’s 28-yard line with 1 second left. Michael Geiger came out for a 46-yard field goal attempt. Instead, holder Matt Macksood flipped Geiger the ball for a run around the right end. He was stuffed after 4 yards as time expired.
Geiger got another chance, this time to actually kick the ball, and made a 34-yarder late in the third quarter to put MSU up 17-14, its first lead of the game.
Maryland took the lead back, however, early in the fourth. The Terps got a 44-yard run by Johnson and a 2-yard TD run from Goins.
Maryland put it away with the 9-yard TD pass from Hills to Jacobs with 3:23 remaining.