The Michigan State Spartans travel to Maryland this weekend, in desperate need of a win. For the first time in the Mark Dantonio era his Spartans have lost four games in a row. Further this Spartans team may be in trouble of not going to a bowl game for the first time in a decade. While the Spartans are searching for balance, production and cohesion the Terrapins are right around the corner and they need to be ready.
The Terrapins are also searching for a win coming off of back to back losses to Penn State and Minnesota. Questions surround the Quarterbacks for both of these teams coming into this game as The Spartans seem to not have a full fledged starter and starting quarterback for Maryland Perry Hills has been out with a shoulder injury.
This week Thomas Kendziora joins us all the way from Testudo Times, where you can find all things Maryland any time of day. Thomas has been kind enough to answer a few of our questions so that we may be better informed about the Maryland Terrapins this Saturday.
Earlier in the week a depth chart was released with Perry Hills listed as the starter despite his current shoulder injury that we thought was still lingering. What do you think of Head Coach DJ Durkin giving no update on his health but then listing him as the starter?
This is pretty normal stuff for Maryland, actually. When a player is iffy with injury, he's usually listed in his normal spot on the depth chart. Essentially, what it means is that Hills is the starter if he's healthy. But he was expected to start against Minnesota all throughout last week until being replaced minutes before the game. This same thing is actually happening with corner/return ace/general playmaker Will Likely, who injured his knee in the second quarter against the Gophers. We could see one or both or neither of these two seniors on the field Saturday, and we probably won't know who's in and out until right around kickoff.
Since Perry Hills injury what are the thoughts surrounding the job that Freshman Quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome has done thus far?
It's been a wild year for Pigrome. He's Maryland's backup, but he's already a phenomenal playmaker with his legs. He came in against UCF during double overtime and, on his first play, rushed for the game-clinching 24-yard touchdown, making some half a dozen defenders miss in the process. He replaced Hills due to injury again at Penn State, and once again immediately ran for a score. But he's been Maryland's quarterback for the last six quarters, and the Terps have just 10 points total in that time and were shut out in the first five. Against Minnesota, Piggy threw the football 37 times and ran it 25 times (only six or eight of those were designed, according to offensive coordinator Walt Bell). He's exciting, but he's young and raw, and good Big Ten teams will prey on that.
The Terrapins have a dynamic rushing attack, it doesn't seem to matter who runs the ball whether it is Lorenzo Harrison or Ty Johnson they more than get the job done. Right now Harrison is averaging 8.3 yards a carry and Johnson is averaging 9.7 yards per carry. So far this season Michigan State has struggled when it comes to stopping the run, in the Spartans last two games they have given up 469 yards on the ground. Can we expect a breakout performance from one of these running backs if not both this week?
It's definitely possible, although both guys have understandably cooled down in the last two weeks. Johnson showed what he can do against Purdue, when he rushed for 204 yards and two scores on only seven carries. Harrison, meanwhile, has been a revelation. The freshman wasn't a super-ballyhooed recruit, but he scored touchdowns in his first four games and is still Maryland's leading rusher. He's a shifty, elusive back, while Johnson is a speedster who always looks like he's on the brink of breaking off a big gain. Both should cause problems for the Spartan run defense, but I can't say I expect a breakout performance from either.
With back to back losses looming over this Maryland team, what improvements do you think could be made to try and ensure more wins are on the horizon?
Turnovers are really the big thing here. The Terps were one of only three FBS teams with no turnovers in the first three weeks, which was insane considering they were turnover machines in 2015. In the past three games, though, Maryland has predictably regressed. Losing the turnover battle 4-0 to Minnesota helped offset a roughly equal yardage output by those two offenses. In that game, the Terps were also plagued by holding penalties, which killed momentum on several occasions. So against Michigan State, the biggest task Maryland has is limiting its own big mistakes.
What is one aspect of this game will you be paying most attention to come Saturday?
I'll obviously watch the quarterback situation, but one thing that really intrigues me is how Maryland's run defense will fare against L.J. Scott and the Spartans. The Terps are one of the worst teams in the country at stopping the run, which comes as no surprise to anyone who watched Penn State's Saquon Barkley destroy them. But even though Minnesota put up 229 yards last week, Maryland's defense did well. That total was on 48 carries, one of which was a 70-yarder late in the game. It'll be interesting to see which version of the team shows up in this regard.
Thanks again to Thomas and everyone over at Testudo Times!