EAST LANSING — Saturday, 21 seniors will make the final walk through Spartan Stadium to take on the Maryland Terrapins football team (3-8, 1-7 Big Ten) in their final regular season game of the year.
“What I will remember about this senior class will be their ability to stay focused, to be able to weather some storms as they have moved through it. You know,” said Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio at his weekly presser. “2017, we had a bounce-back year, won 10 football games, and then last year, we had a lot, a lot of close games. Could have won a couple of those.”
The Spartans (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) on Saturday will be playing for the chance to extend their season; to play in a bowl game and keep whatever hopes fans have for the future of the program alive.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Spartan Stadium and students can even bring two guests for free. But in terms of football, here are some aspects of Saturday’s game to look at this weekend.
Maryland started off the year strong with a pair of blowout wins over Howard and then-No. 21 Syracuse.
From then on, the Terrapins’ offense has fallen into a downward spiral, and the record shows.
Now at 3-8, and 1-8 in their last nine games, Maryland and quarterback Josh Jackson Jr. have struggled since the aforementioned Jackson broke a Terrapin record for most passing yards and passing touchdowns in the opening game against Howard.
Jackson, who had 26 touchdowns in 2017 at Virginia Tech, has only 11 total touchdowns this year. He and backup Pigrome have split time, especially after Jackson hurt his ankle against Rutgers. Pigrome had 107 rushing yards in a game earlier this season, the first time a Maryland quarterback has done so in four seasons.
Jackson also has -61 net rushing yards. With his game being centered around his athleticism — the threat of scrambling helping his passing game open up — it is hard to imagine he will discover much more success against a sometimes stifling MSU defense.
Maryland is 3-8 this year, and the offensive output reflects that.
Maryland’s defense will be tasked with attacking an MSU offense that found its rhythm last weekend to the tune of a 27-0 beatdown of Rutgers.
This side of the ball has been an issue all year — just as much as the offense. The Terrapins have been outscored 397-287 in total this year and have given up an average of 36 points per game.
Ayinde Eley is the heart of this defense with Antoine Brooks making many of the plays in the defensive backfield. If this pair can make a couple big plays on Saturday, this game will be much closer than MSU fans hoped.
Can Maryland control budding Spartan star Elijah Collins at running back?
Only time will tell.
Reportedly, sources have informed Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal that Devontae Dobbs was injured in practice and will not be playing on Saturday.
Dobbs was listed as the starter at left tackle for the game against Maryland. He was a five-star recruit out of Belleville High School.
Offensive linemen Kevin Jarvis and Tyler Higby’s status remain in question. Cole Chewins, who was slated to be one of the main starters on the line, has missed every game this year. Center Matt Allen was not listed on the depth chart for Saturday’s contest either.
Wide receiver Darrell Stewart, who was hurt against Penn State, is injured and not listed on the depth chart either.
“If you look at our situation this year and right now where we’re at, there’s a lot of reasons, and I understand that,” said Dantonio on Tuesday. “But the ones that are out of our system control are injuries, so consequently we are playing young players, especially on the offensive line.
MSU has struggled with injuries all season long and this week is not different. Dobbs being reportedly not able to play — on the bright side for MSU — would save him from burning his ability to redshirt.
Prediction: Mark Dantonio and the injury show 28, Maryland Terrapins 10
You can watch the game on Fox Sports 1 and hear it live in the Lansing area on WDBM 88.9 FM.
Contact Joe Dandron at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @JosephDandronMI.