Maryland interim head coach Matt Canada sat by himself postgame following the Terrapins’ (5-4, 3-3) 24-3 loss to the Michigan State Spartans (6-3, 4-2).
Customarily, Canada would have been flanked by two of his players, but no Maryland football players were made available for postgame comments.
So Canada fielded questions from reporters about the state of his team on the field, as well as off the field, after a tumultuous week that saw the short-lived reinstatement of former head coach DJ Durkin, who was fired on Wednesday, a power struggle between the higher-ups of the university and an altercation between two players that left one with stitches and in a sling.
“I thought our kids played very, very hard,” Canada said of the team’s effort after an emotional week. “I don’t think there’s any questions about how hard they played.”
Despite losing by three touchdowns and being outgained on offense by 256 yards, Maryland had multiple chances to close the gap after falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter.
But an offense which once again failed to produce anything against a top conference opponent ー this time versus Michigan State’s top-ranked run defense ー and a series of bad breaks left the Terrapins with missed opportunities on both sides of the ball.
On 4th-and-1 in the second quarter, Maryland lined up to go for it on Michigan State’s 37-yard line, but a false start penalty pushed the offense back and forced the punting unit onto the field.
Michigan State’s second touchdown came off a fortuitous bounce in which running back Connor Heyward fumbled the ball into the end zone, but fullback Max Rosenthal jumped on it to give the Spartans a 17-3 lead.
After an 8-yard punt ー which may have been affected by the wind ー gave Maryland its best starting field position of the day in the third quarter at Michigan State’s 34-yard line, running back Javon Leake fumbled the ball three plays later and Michigan State recovered.
Even when Maryland regained possession two plays later, courtesy of a RaVon Davis interception, the offense couldn’t make anything of it and punted back to the Spartans.
And in a series of events that may have summed up the entire game for Maryland, Byron Cowart intercepted a batted pass from quarterback Rocky Lombardi and began to run to the end zone to try to bring the score to 17-10 with a little over 11 minutes left in the game.
But just before the ball crossed the plane, Cowart was stripped and Michigan State recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback. On the very next play, Heyward broke loose for an 80-yard touchdown run which effectively ended the game.
“We’re right there, playing one of the top programs in the nation,” Canada said. “Certainly one of the top programs in our league. And we’re that far away from being 17 to 10.”
The defeat, while maybe not as bad as Maryland’s 23-0 shutout at Iowa in October, once again highlighted problems with a team that can’t keep up with the top dogs of the Big Ten.
Quarterback Kasim Hill continued with his up-and-down season, completing eight of 21 pass attempts for 74 yards, while being sacked four times. The team had almost as many punts (8) as first downs (9).
Put simply, a week that couldn’t have gone worse for the university ended in a game that the football team just couldn’t take control of.
“It’s just one of those days,” Canada bluntly stated.