Tyrese Chambers had played sparingly in his first few weeks with Maryland football. After the East Baltimore native transferred to his hometown team this offseason, he was silent in two games and missed another with injury. It appeared as though he might have missed his chance to establish himself in a crowded wide receiver room.
But with Chambers physically and mentally healthy, coach Michael Locksley said, this week was the wideout’s first true chance to assert himself. On the goal line looking to go up two scores in the first quarter, Taulia Tagovailoa searched for Chambers and connected with him for his first score of the season.
Chambers rose to his feet and quickly began celebrating with his teammates. The score was one of Maryland’s three in the first half that gave it enough cushion to prevent a clunky second half from impacting the result in a 31-9 win at Michigan State. But the touchdown meant even more to Chambers, marking his long-awaited return to the team he once dreamed of playing for.
“We play a lot of players. We have depth,” Locksley said. “We have the opportunity to get a lot of guys involved. … Different guys can make plays for us.”
Chambers and Maryland’s air attack dominated a depleted Spartans defense, which had several starters out with injury, early. The Terps led 21-3 at halftime and have now scored more than 30 points in every game this season.
Tagovailoa enjoys a number of quality options to throw to, but Maryland’s first touchdown pass went to Sean Greely, a former walk-on and fifth-year linebacker, on a play-action fake. The Terps knew all week they’d go to Greely if the chance came.
“I was prepared,” Greely said. “It was just time and place [and] opportunity, we were close to the goal line and they called my name. It was a good surprise for me.”
The Terps’ rhythm slowed in the second half. Jack Howes’ 48-yard field goal was Maryland’s only score until Octavian Smith’s 31-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Tagovailoa was intercepted in the red zone to open the half before consecutive drives ended in punts.
As Michigan State grew comfortable and swapped quarterbacks, the Spartans looked close to getting within a score of the Terps. But once again, Maryland’s defense forced a turnover — their fourth of five takeaways on Saturday.
Tarheeb Still ended a promising drive with an interception for the second straight week. His takeaway gave the ball back to the Terps, and Smith’s score sealed their first victory in East Lansing since 1950.
“We gave up some yardage today, but as we got down in that red area, we buckled down and were able to keep them out of the end zone,” Locksley said. “They created some opportunities today. … We were able to convert them to scores.”
Maryland’s defense, which has allowed just five touchdowns this season and hasn’t let an opponent score more than 20 points through four games, was stellar again Saturday. It held Michigan State to nine points with three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, a turnover on downs and a blocked field goal.
Beau Brade picked off Spartans starter Noah Kim on his fourth pass attempt. Later in the first quarter, the Terps’ front stuffed a run on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line to keep the opposition scoreless. Greeley forced a fumble that Donnell Brown landed on and Glendon Miller’s first career interception combined to give Maryland’s its 11th takeaway through four games.
“This week, we made an emphasis on getting our hands on the ball and create turnovers,” Still said.
“It helps us a lot, cause it gives us opportunities to go score,” Tai Felton said.
Michigan State’s rocky start to the season was made murkier after it fired Mel Tucker amid a sexual harassment investigation. Interim coach Harlon Barnett led the Spartans for the second time Saturday. Although Michigan State improved in the second half, Maryland notched its second consecutive win over the Spartans, the first time the Terps have ever beaten the conference foe in back-to-back seasons.
Brade’s quick turnover and Maryland’s subsequent scoring drive signaled the ugly starts that defined the nonconference schedule were left behind entering Big Ten play. A near-collapse in the second half almost overshadowed that effort, but the Terps’ commanding defense has them 4-0 for the second time in the last three seasons.
“The best part about this is that locker room is still disappointed a little bit that we didn’t finish the way we’d like to,” Locksley said. “It’s always great to clean it up with a win.”