No. 17 Michigan St. weathers conditions to beat Maryland
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Wet, miserable conditions make Michigan State unbeatable.
For the fourth time during the Big Ten season, the Spartans played in nasty weather. They’ve won every time, including their 17-7 victory over Maryland on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.
“We scratch and claw for wins,” coach Mark Dantonio said.
LJ Scott rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown, as a combination of rain and snow made conditions treacherous most of the way and forced both teams to rely on their running games. Michigan State outgained Maryland 271-83 on the ground, led by Scott’s 29-carry performance.
An early two-touchdown advantage allowed the Spartans to keep pounding away. They also defeated Minnesota, Michigan and Penn State under adverse weather conditions.
“It was critical to our success,” Dantonio said.
“We weren’t throwing the ball very effectively, obviously. The weather had a lot to do with that. I looked up there when the snow was coming down and it was difficult to even see through the snow. Then, as the game progressed, it became more like we didn’t have to take the risk of throwing the football.”
The Spartans (8-3, 6-2 Big Ten) bounced back from a 48-3 loss at Ohio State but were officially eliminated from the East Division race by the Buckeyes’ win over Illinois on Saturday.
“I didn’t know how our guys would respond. What are they going to play for? What’s the reason now?” Dantonio said. “Playing for a bowl game is a little bit of an intangible. I‘m very proud how we embraced everything.”
Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke rushed for 63 yards on five carries and scored a touchdown. He completed just 2 of 14 pass attempts for 20 yards.
“It definitely wasn’t fun,” said Lewerke, a Phoenix native. “That was my first snow game I’ve played in. Probably the coldest game I’ve played in. It wasn’t easy to throw the ball, as my stats show, but we ran the ball really well.”
Lorenzo Harrison gained 50 yards on 13 carries and scored the Terrapins’ touchdown.
Max Bortenschlager started at quarterback for Maryland (4-7, 2-6) after missing a game with a shoulder injury. He completed 13 of 25 passes for 121 yards. Ryan Brand replaced Bortenschlager for the third quarter but didn’t attempt a pass.
The Terrapins, who have lost three straight, are guaranteed a losing record.
“That’s horrible for our seniors and the guys playing their last year of college football,” Maryland coach DJ Durkin said of losing bowl eligibility. “That’s tough because that’s the reward you feel like they deserve. Our bowl game will be next week at home (against Penn State).”
Scott gained 36 yards during Michigan State’s first possession, which he finished with a 2-yard scoring run. Scott, who had 112 yards by halftime, scored the 23rd rushing touchdown of his career.
Lewerke gave the Spartans a 14-0 lead by scoring on the first play of the second quarter. He faked a handoff, then cut left and slipped past the defense on a third-and-3 from the Maryland 25.
“They ran the ball well, especially early on,” Durkin said.
“We solidified some things up. I thought we played good defense the last three quarters. Unfortunately, you’ve got to play defense for four quarters. We started off 14-0 and that’s hard to overcome, no matter who you are playing, especially when you have (tough) weather conditions.”
The Spartans squandered a chance to extend the lead in the second quarter after recovering a Bortenschlager fumble deep in Maryland territory. Gerald Holmes fumbled at the Terrapins 1 and cornerback RaVon Davis recovered.
Matt Coghlin’s 27-yard field goal late in the third made it 17-0. Coghlin had missed a 32-yarder moments earlier but got a reprieve with a running-into-the-kicker penalty.
With Bortenschlager returning at quarterback early in the fourth, the Terrapins finally broke through with 59-yard drive, capped by Harrison’s 4-yard scoring run.
Maryland had a chance to pull closer but Henry Darmstadter missed a 36-yard field goal attempt.
NOTES: Terrapins WR DJ Moore’s second-quarter catch extended his receptions streak to 32 games, tops in the Big Ten. ... The Spartans lead the overall series 7-2, including a 5-1 record in East Lansing. ... Maryland and Michigan are the only teams this season to win at least one game with three different starting quarterbacks. ... Michigan State junior RB LJ Scott has rushed for 100 or more yards in eight career games.