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Breaking down the defense versus Maryland

MSU’s defense dominated Maryland and showed why it is one of the best defenses in the country

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

This was a dominant showing by the MSU defense, as Maryland hit just 100 yards of total offense. The Spartans won the game 24-3 and will look to carry that momentum into a showdown with the Buckeyes.

What went wrong

Nothing. Absolutely nothing

Michigan State’s defense has been great all season, but this was by far the units most complete effort of the year. They held Maryland to 26 yards on the ground and 74 through the air. Josiah Scott made his return and played well, the defensive line was disruptive, and they forced two more turnovers. The Spartans have a tough test on Saturday as Ohio State comes to town.

What worked

Defensive Line

MSU’s defensive line has been very good all season, but against the Terrapins, the unit was outstanding. The Spartans’ defensive line combined for 17 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks. The Terps averaged 0.9 yards per carry, and the quarterback had no time to scan the field when passing. It was a dominate performance all around for the defense, but the big bodies up front shined brightest for MSU.

Darrell Stewart’s effort

Obviously, Stewart doesn’t play defense, but it was a defensive play by the junior receiver that changed the game. After an interception by Rocky Lombardi, Byron Cowart was just a few yards away from the end zone when Stewart came and knocked the ball out of his hands and into the end zone. Matt Dotson recovered, and the Spartans got the ball back at the 20-yard line. On the very next play, Connor Heyward scored on an 80-yard touchdown run to give MSU a 24-3 lead. Had Stewart not hustled back and knocked the ball out, MSU would’ve led 17-10 and momentum would’ve been with Maryland. Stewart deserves a lot of credit for making that play.

Naquan Jones

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Kenny Willekes in these breakdowns, and rightfully so. He’s a great player. However, Jones is quietly putting together a solid season for the Spartans. Against Maryland, he had six tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. On the season, Jones has 20 tackles, 1.5 sacks and four tackles for loss. The sophomore defensive tackle has a bright future and should get more opportunities going forward.