Another week, another loss for Michigan State football. The Spartans are now 2-3 after suffering a 27-13 loss on the road to Maryland and while there’s lots of issues that need to be addressed, one that stuck out like a sore thumb was the offensive inconsistency.
MSU's offense appeared to be bouncing back early after getting shut out at home against Minnesota last week, but all progress was halted by the Terrapins in the second half.
After the last two weeks of play, the opening drive was a welcome sign for MSU. Redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne came out ready to go, going 5-5 for 58 quick yards. He was on the same page with the Spartan receivers as they marched down the field before handing the ball off to redshirt senior Elijah Collins to quickly match Maryland’s seven points.
Collins’ appearance could show that there’s change coming at the running back position. Collins missed time over the last few years due to injury and served as the backup to breakout star Kenneth Walker III last season, so he wasn’t expected to have a huge role this season. But Saturday he was much more involved early in Michigan State's offense, carrying five times for 36 yards and a touchdown as MSU's rushing attack improved following two stagnant performances.
“Elijah’s one of the hardest working guys on the team, shows it day in and day out on offense and special teams so I’m glad to see him finally getting another opportunity,” redshirt junior wide receiver Tre Mosely said.
As for his role on the team going further into the season, Head Coach Mel Tucker liked what he saw, but still needs to evaluate.
"We'll have to see about going forward," Tucker said. "I don't know at this time, but he's done a really good job at practice and when he got in games he was productive.
MSU had one other scoring play in the second quarter on an eight-yard pass from Thorne to redshirt wide receiver Jayden Reed, his first touchdown catch of the season, but the scoring stopped then and there. The inconsistency made its way to special teams on the very next play and the snap for an extra point attempt was fumbled, leaving the Spartans with 13 points on the board.
All momentum built was squashed when the Spartans came out of the locker room for the second half of the game.
They were only able to muster up 75 total yards in the third and fourth quarters compared to the 246 total yards they had in the first half. Since the Terrapins didn’t seem to change up their defensive game plan in the second half, this sudden shift in offensive momentum came as a surprise.
“I haven’t watched the film yet so I obviously don’t know 100% but I would say 90%, no they didn’t do anything differently,” Thorne said. “I thought I was seeing the same stuff in the second half for the most part.”
After a few three-and-out drives, the Spartans were able to string together some solid plays that could’ve turned into scoring drives, but they just weren’t able to capitalize on any of them. One drive just under the eight minute mark of the fourth quarter, in particular, seemed like it was going to pan out for MSU and make it a one-score game, but instead, they turned the ball over on downs.
Mosley spoke to how Michigan State was able to get into a groove after coming up short for much of the second half leading up to that drive.
“We had a sense of urgency,” Mosley said. “We know the time was ticking so we had to go, so we needed to play with that sense of urgency all throughout the game. I think it would be better for us if we do that.”
The team will need to find a sense of urgency soon, as they have a tough conference schedule ahead of them. The Spartans return home next week to take on the No. 3 team in the country, Ohio State, before welcoming Wisconsin and then hitting the road to take on No. 4 Michigan.
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