EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Mark Dantonio sounded ready for a relaxing night by the fireplace after Michigan State’s snowy victory over Maryland.
“We should’ve brought some hot chocolate in here,” the Spartans’ coach said to start his postgame news conference.
Dantonio’s team has played some of its best football this year in unusual weather conditions, and on Saturday night, No. 22 Michigan State held off Maryland 17-7. LJ Scott ran for 147 yards and a touchdown on a day the Spartans completed only two passes and still won.
“I think we had a little bit of everything out on that field today from a weather standpoint,” Dantonio said. “We had fog this morning, then we had the wind and the rain. Then it went to snow . … I thought the field was in good shape when we got there, but it dissipated pretty quickly.”
The Spartans (8-3, 6-2 Big Ten, No. 17 CFP) rushed for 271 yards, and that was about the only way they could move the ball. Quarterback Brian Lewerke was 2 of 14 for 20 yards, and one of his completions was a shovel pass late in the third quarter.
Maryland (4-7, 2-6) wasn’t much better through the air until the final period. Max Bortenschlager finished 13 of 25 for 121 yards. He was taken out of the game in the third quarter but came back strong at the end.
“I was proud of Max, coming back in the fourth. We were able to throw the ball and move the ball a little bit,” coach DJ Durkin said. “We had some chances and we didn’t execute when we needed to.”
Michigan State won in torrential conditions at Michigan on Oct. 7, then won at Minnesota the following week following a lightning delay. The Spartans beat Penn State on Nov. 4 in a game interrupted for over three hours by a weather delay.
It was raining before the game, and by halftime, the teams had to deal with snow in addition to consistently windy conditions. There wasn’t any real snow accumulation on the field, but both teams had problems passing. Lewerke, who threw for 400 yards in back-to-back games earlier this season, wasn’t going to be the man to lead this victory.
“Going in, we knew that they weren’t the greatest run defense,” Lewerke said. “They had given up 50 or more explosive runs - which were, you know, runs of 10 or more yards. No matter if the weather was going to be good or not, we knew we were going to be able to run the ball.”
Scott gave Michigan State a 7-0 lead with a 2-yard run in the first quarter, and Lewerke scored on a 25-yard run in the second.
Michigan State’s Matt Coghlin missed a field goal in the third quarter, but a penalty for running into the kicker gave him another chance, and he converted from 27 yards. That became crucial when Maryland’s Lorenzo Harrison scored on a 4-yard run in the fourth and the Terps drove back into the red zone in the final minutes - but a missed field goal helped the Spartans close out the game.
Maryland: The Terps have gone through significant injury problems at quarterback. Bortenschlager, who missed last week’s loss to Michigan with an apparent head injury, was back, but the conditions made his job difficult. Maryland had a hard time stopping Michigan State’s running game early, and this was not a good night to be trying to mount a rally.
Michigan State: The Spartans rebounded nicely from a 48-3 loss at Ohio State last weekend, and the running game delivered on a day when it was sorely needed.
The announced attendance was 70,216, but there appeared to be about a tenth of that in the stands by game’s end. It was similar to the Penn State game, in which the Michigan State crowd was understandably thin because of bad weather.
“They were the passionate fans - those were the ones,” Dantonio said. “They embraced it. They had a little bit of will as well, to stay in the elements. So they should be congratulated, and the win is their win as well.”
The Terps were able to stay in the game thanks to their defense, which hung in there despite Michigan State’s edge in time of possession. The Spartans had the ball for 34:38.
“We were bending but we weren’t breaking,” Maryland linebacker Jermaine Carter said. “But they still had a lot of yards rushing. You’ve got to be better at that.”
After a 3-9 season in 2016, the Spartans can call this season a significant step forward if they finish in the Top 25. That looks more likely now. If Michigan State can win next week and go 9-3 in the regular season, the Spartans could end up ranked no matter what happens in their bowl.
Maryland: The Terps can no longer reach .500, but they’ll try to finish on a positive note when they host Penn State next weekend.
Michigan State: The Spartans close the regular season at Rutgers.
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