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Michigan State Spartans football team saves face, earns bowl eligibility with 19-16 win over struggling Maryland

Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke, left, dives for a first down against Maryland's Antoine Brooks Jr., center, and Isaiah Davis during the second half Saturday in East Lansing. (AP photo)

EAST LANSING — Michigan State players came out to meet reporters after the game with green hats that said “PROGRAM WIN” on the back.

It’s a far cry from the Big Ten championships the Spartans played for earlier in the decade, but they were able to save face a bit by beating Maryland and becoming bowl eligible.

“I think it’s about a four-dollar hat,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “I just felt like, hey, need to have something to hang on to, point towards. They didn’t get the hats until Friday.”

Matt Coghlin kicked a 33-yard field goal with 2:14 remaining, and Michigan State beat Maryland 19-16 on Saturday. It was hardly an impressive performance for the Spartans against a Maryland team that had lost eight of its previous nine games, but Michigan State did just enough late. The Spartans drove 74 yards in 12 plays to set up the decisive kick by Coghlin, who also made a 32-yard field goal earlier in the final quarter.

The Terrapins (3-9, 1-8 Big Ten) still had a chance after Michigan State (6-6, 4-5) took the lead, but Josh Jackson’s pass toward Chigoziem Okonkwo fell incomplete on fourth down from the Maryland 47. Xavier Henderson was providing tight coverage on the play for the Spartans.

Brian Lewerke threw for 342 yards for Michigan State but was intercepted twice in the first quarter. The Spartans had all sorts of trouble against Maryland, which had lost each of its previous four games by at least 31 points.

But Michigan State has missed the postseason just once under Dantonio, and the Spartans were able to win in the last home game for Lewerke and some other seniors.

“Obviously things didn’t go well the past couple years, but there are still memories I look back and I’m very proud of,” Lewerke said. “I tried to get as many handshakes in on the field as I could before I walked off. I just tried to enjoy every second of walking off the field.”

The Terrapins took a 16-13 lead in the third quarter on a 63-yard touchdown run by Anthony McFarland Jr., but Michigan State kept them off the scoreboard after that. McFarland finished with 134 yards on eight carries.