Know Thy Enemy is a Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State's opponent. This week, The State News' football beat writer Alex Faber spoke with sports editor/football reporter Noah Ferguson of The Diamondback ahead of Saturday afternoon’s matchup.
After a pair of rough losses, Michigan State is looking to right the ship this weekend with a conference road game against the Maryland Terrapins.
Ahead of the upcoming matchup, The State News’ football beat writer Alex Faber spoke with Noah Ferguson to get a preview of what Michigan State can expect Saturday afternoon.
Q: Last weekend, Maryland traveled out to Ann Arbor to play the No. 4 team in the country and kept it pretty close. What’d you see out of the team in that performance?
A: "I went out there to Ann Arbor to watch the game. When the first play happened, I thought this was gonna be the Maryland of years past, where they hadn’t been successful against the Michigans, the Penn States, the teams in the upper echelon of the Big Ten. When the ball hit off Tai Felton’s facemask and Michigan scored eight seconds in, I thought ‘this is going to be a long game.' But to their credit, they really bounced back. All three phases of the game for Maryland looked improved. They looked confident, and they looked like they were going step-for-step with Michigan, which is really an accomplishment. Talking to the team after the game, they didn’t want to take any moral victories from the game, but you could tell it was a step forward — a step in the rightdirection for the program."
Q: In years past, Maryland’s gotten off to hot starts, but it seems like they struggle carrying on that momentum. Have you seen something from this team that indicates they could bounce back or have more strength to make it through the season?
A: "It’s about health I think. Maryland did get a little dinged up against Michigan — Taulia Tagovailoa exited the game in the fourth quarter, which is not a good sign. Rakim Jarrett, No. 1 wide receiver on the team, went down. In terms of the rest of this season, I think it really depends on health. If you think back to Texas years, their depth is a lot better, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. Everyone talks about their wide receiver core, one of the most feared in the country, but the running backs have shown some promise [as well]. I think there’s better depth on the team, but again it comes down to health."
Q: Tagovailoa — what have you seen from his progression this year?
A: "The thing that he’s talked about as his biggest growth from last year to this year has been his poise in the big moments — staying level headed. He says it himself all the time, he’s a very emotional player. If he throws an interception, maybe last season he was more likely to throw another one because he gets frustrated with himself. He always says to the media that he wants to keep himself in neutral. I think that’s something he’s done better at; he’s been more consistent. His offensive line, you’ve got to give them credit, he always gives them credit, they’ve given him enough time. ... He’s done well with his poise, but there’s still some questionable decisions. [Coach Mike] Locksley called Tagovailoa’s second interception, where he threw it into double coverage against Michigan, ‘egregious.' Tagovailoa said it was a mistake. He didn’t read the defense correctly. So, there’s still room to grow there, but I really think he’s taken strides in terms of understanding the college game more and being level-headed in situations."
Q: What’s a name or two that Michigan State is going to have circled on the WR scouting report?
A: "Maryland’s No. 1 wide receiver is Rakim Jarrett, he’s also questionable, came down on his head against Michigan late, exited the game. ... Reporters did not see him in practice yesterday [Tuesday], so we’ll see what happens. If it’s a concussion thing, then they’re probably going to play it safe. No word on that. If he’s playing, he’s their most dangerous weapon. Originally committed to LSU, decommitted and stayed home — he’s a local guy over here in Maryland, went to St. Johns. If he’s not going to play, Jacob Copeland, who’s a transfer from Florida, has had his moments. They have a really deep room there, so honestly I have no idea who he [Tagovailoa] will throw to. Dontay Demus, before his injury, was a really electric player, suppposed to be an NFL talent. I don’t know if he’s at 100% just yet. I would say probably his [Tagavailoa] most consistent option, because he’s healthy and based on Demus’ injury recovery, Jacob Copeland is going to be a name that they [Michigan State] are going to circle, especially if Jarrett is out. They also have some younger players that are under the radar. Tai Felton, who had the unfortunate hit off his face mask to give up the touchdown, is a sophomore and he’s gotten some love in the offense, which I wasn’t expecting heading into the season. Jeshaun Jones is in another name — he’s in his last season at College Park and he’s been around the program for a long time, so he always gets some love."
Q: Defensively, is there a strength of the team?
A: "Giving them credit defensively, they’ve really grown as a unit throughout the season at getting better at ... not committing penalties. Against SMU, the team as a whole committed 15 penalties, which almost set records at Maryland. That was the focus for the next week. Funny story: Locksley actually put a video together after the SMU game (which was the week before Michigan) of each of their 15 penalties. Then he put together a compilation of tweets and articles talking about how they were so bad at defense, saying they were bad with penalties to light the fire under the team. They came out and had zero penalties in the first 58 minutes of the Michigan game — zero defensive penalties the whole way (there was one false start call in the last minute of the game). Defensively, they’re still a bit more of a work in progress than the offense, the offense is a little bit deeper."
Q: Score prediction?
A: "I’ve actually gone back and forth about this. I’ve followed Maryland for a long time. ... In previous years, they come into a game 3-0, 4-0 or 4-1, and then something happens, and all of a sudden it’s a big blowout loss. But I really do think Mike Locksley has turned the tides a little bit, so I’m going to go with Maryland. ... I’m going to say it’s close; I really don’t think it’ll be lopsided either way. So I'm going to go with Maryland 31, Michigan State 27."
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