After laying an egg in Columbus and basically showing up to the game sleep walking the Spartans are going to take the field against the Maryland Terrapins for their final home game of the season.
Senior day is and always will be a huge deal. As fans it’s our job to show out and pack the stands so that our seniors may hear and see Spartan Stadium at its finest one last time. But as players it’s there job to put on a hell of a show so that the team is able to send these guys out the right way.
This season Maryland has experienced some let downs due to the injury bug. Tyrrell Pigrome and freshman Kasim Hill both suffered torn ACL's early on in the year and even Max Bortenschlager was a game-time decision vs. Michigan last week. If so he would have been replaced by sophomore walk-on Ryan Brand. Where does DJ Durkin have this team at right now from a mental stand point?
The message from the coaches and the players is the same as it has been all season: that every week is a one-game season and they're just focused on going into East Lansing and trying to find a way to win. That said, they admittedly came out flat against Rutgers in a game they had to win. From the outside, Durkin has always seemed like a great motivator, and several videos the team has tweeted have had me ready to run through a wall for the guy. I think what best answers this question is the fact that last week, down 25 in the fourth quarter to Michigan, defenders were still flying around the field and celebrating plays like it was a close game.
Prior to all of the unfortunate injuries where did you have Maryland finishing in the Big Ten this season and why?
As you know, playing in the Big Ten East is ridiculously difficult—almost unreasonably so. Combine that with crossovers against Wisconsin, Northwestern and Minnesota from the west and out of conference games against UCF and Texas, and this is pretty much about where I'd imagine Maryland would be. Now how they got there is a different story. If you'd have said that Maryland was going to beat a ranked (yes, I know they were overrated) Texas on the road but lose to Rutgers, I'd have thought you were crazy. And if you'd have told me that the Terps would be starting their fifth-string, walk-on quarterback in November, I wouldn't think there was even a chance they'd have four wins.
When both guys return healthy and ready to go next year will Tyrrell Pigrome still be the starter? Or was Hill able to leave a lasting impression even with such a small sample size?
I'd have to think that if each guy is healthy—which as we all know, is a big if when it comes to Maryland quarterbacks—Hill would be the starter. That said, once each guy is cleared to resume full football activity, he'll have to convincingly beat out the other one to win the job. With health still a question mark, it'd be wise to get familiar with incoming freshman Tyler DeSue, who isn't as highly rated as Hill, but is a near-perfect fit for Walt Bell's offense.
Okay this is my last quarterback question. I promise. Who will Spartan fans see under center? Max Bortenschalger? Or Ryan Brand?
My gut tells me the team will go back to Bortenschlager this weekend, but it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see Brand come in for some trick play packages. There's also the chance Bortenschlager gets hurt again, which would leave Brand in charge again.
Despite all of these very important injuries do you believe head coach DJ Durkin has this program headed in the right direction? Why or why not?
My answer is an unequivocal yes. Last year's No. 18 recruiting class, which is being followed up with what looks to be, at worst, a top-30 class should give the program the talent it needs to move from 4-5 win seasons to 6-8 win seasons. The staff is recruiting at such a high level without a consistent winning product on the field that it's hard to believe that there's anything they can't do. There are also the renovations to Cole Field House, turning the old basketball arena into a state-of-the-art football and research facility. All the premier programs in the country have elite facilities, and the Cole renovations are Maryland's attempt at moving themselves closer toward that tier.
What are Maryland's keys to victory come Saturday?
Anecdotally, Maryland has to run the ball. Like, a lot. Ty Johnson needs to get over 125 yards and Lorenzo Harrison has to add at least 75 of his own. Against Michigan State's seventh-ranked rush defense, good luck with that one. D.J. Moore's going to need to be a factor in the Terps' limited passing game.
There are two bell weather stats that determine whether Maryland will win or not. 1. Jake Funk has to score a touchdown. The Terps are 4-0 when he does. 2. Maryland has to hold its opponent to less than 100 yards rushing. The Terps are 4-0 when they do. With LJ Scott in the backfield ... good luck with that one too.
What’s the match-up you will be paying the most attention to?
It's going to have to be Maryland's front seven against the Spartans' running game. With nasty weather in the forecast, each team's passing game can be expected to take a hit. For Maryland, that probably means there won't really be one. Maryland gets last year's regular season leading tackler back in Shane Cockerille, which should give the Terps a boost on defense.
Prediction time: Final score? Who wins? Why?
Michigan State will win this game because they're the all-around better team. Because of the weather, I'd imagine this will be a bit of a lower-scoring game. Let's call it a 32-16 win for the Spartans.