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  • A long week for Maryland's football team and embarrassing one for the university culminated in a deflating home loss to Michigan State on Saturday.
By Laken Litman
November 03, 2018

Maryland’s emotionally draining and enraging week was capped Saturday when the program was unable to become bowl eligible with a 24–3 loss at home to Michigan State.

The Terrapins, who now have a 5–4 record under interim coach Matt Canada, will have to wait until next week’s road trip to Indiana to try and get that sixth win. Otherwise they will have to figure out a way to beat Ohio State and/or Penn State to finish out the regular season.

Maryland was hoping a victory would close out one of the school’s most embarrassing weeks in history. On Tuesday, the university’s board of regents recommended to reinstate DJ Durkin as head football coach following two independent investigations into the program after the death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair. Durkin had been on paid administrative leave since August.

The controversial decision was met with outrage, including protests from students and politicians. Ellis McKennie, a current Terrapins lineman and one of McNair’s closest friends, tweeted a powerful message that night, saying, “Every Saturday my teammates and I have to kneel before the memorial of our fallen teammate. Yet a group of people do not have the courage to hold anyone accountable for his death. If only they could have the courage that Jordan had. It’s never the wrong time to do what’s right.”

On Wednesday, one day after he was reinstated, Durkin was fired by school president Wallace Loh, who reportedly made the reversal without consulting the board. And one day later, regents chair James T. Brady resigned. It was a whirlwind few days, and then there was still a football game to play with a bid to the postseason on the line.

Legal Implications of Maryland's Roundabout Firing of DJ Durkin

Before Saturday’s game, Maryland student-athletes from all sports formed a tunnel to greet the football team onto the field before kickoff. Unfortunately for this mentally exhausted team though, this game wasn’t like the season opener against Texas when they played with their heart on their sleeve and pulled an upset. Third-and-long was the story on the field, with Maryland going 3 of 15 and failing to score a touchdown. Quarterback Kasim Hill went 8 of 21 for 74 yards, the offense had nine total first downs, and the unit amassed 100 total yards of offense. It was one struggle of a performance.

And this was against a team that had its own banged up offense: Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke wasn’t at 100% with an injured throwing shoulder (he missed last week’s game against Purdue) and he went 11 of 20 for 87 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. The Spartans were without starting tailback LJ Scott (previously had ankle injury and didn’t travel) and they lost star receiver Felton Davis (Achilles) for the season against Michigan. The Spartans did run the ball just fine, using sophomore backup Connor Heyward who rushed for 157 yards and scored two touchdowns.

Maryland’s defense held Michigan State to 10 points in the first half, but grew tired in the second. The Terps, who were without senior running back Ty Johnson, failed to run the ball, rushing for 26 yards on 29 attempts and allowing the Spartans to look the part of the Big Ten’s No. 1 rush defense.

Holding a narrow 10–3 lead at the break, Michigan State scored on its second possession of the second half. At that point, the Spartans took control against a Terps team that didn’t look like it was built to overcome a large deficit. Maryland couldn’t even catch a break after making consecutive interceptions in the fourth quarter. The first came after a Maryland fumble. RaVon Davis made up for that miscue by picking Lewerke at the Michigan State 43-yard line, but the Terps punted after four plays on the next drive. Spartans backup QB Rocky Lombardi came in for Lewerke on the next series and was promptly intercepted. Brian Cowart returned it for 12 yards and was on his way to a pick-six when he fumbled, and the Spartans recovered in the end zone for a touchback. Heyward scored an 80-yard touchdown on the next play.

That series effectively ended the game—and the intensely rough week—for Maryland.

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