EAST LANSING, MICH. — In the last churn of a meat-grinder series of games, the Maryland football team was the sausage again.
Unable to move the ball or maintain possession for much of the final 47 minutes Saturday afternoon, the Terps fell to No. 13 Michigan State, 24-7, in their first visit to Spartan Stadium in 65 years.
It was Maryland's fifth loss in six games to a team in the top 25 of the College Football Playoff rankings. It was also the wrong day to play an angry Spartans team (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten Conference) with CFP dreams.
"Our kids gave a great effort once again," said interim coach Mike Locksley, whose Terps fell to 2-8, 0-6 with their seventh straight defeat. "Our defense played well enough to win. Offensively, we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot."
With three interceptions and two lost fumbles, it was in both feet. That didn't count the field position squandered with seven punts that averaged less than 30 yards against Michigan State.
"It's frustrating beyond words," quarterback Perry Hills said. "I hate to lose. It's sickening. What I have to do is get better."
The Spartans said the same things a week ago after a controversial 39-38 loss at Nebraska, allowing 499 yards and squandering a 12-point lead in the last 1:47.
This time, their defense dominated, holding Maryland to 117 yards in a stretch of 11 possessions. The Terps finished with 107 rushing yards on 37 carries (2.9 per attempt), and just 289 overall.
"Last week was a letdown on the defensive side of the ball," Michigan State linebacker Riley Bullough said. "Today, I was the hot player. I was able to read the quarterback and make a play."
Bullough's 44-yard interception return for a touchdown after Hills telegraphed a pass to the left sideline gave the Spartans a 14-7 lead with 2:07 left in the first half.
Their advantage grew with a backup quarterback and a conservative game plan, giving Mark Dantonio's program its 35th win in 39 games and its 22nd victory in 24 Big Ten contests heading into next Saturday's showdown at No. 3 Ohio State.
"The main focus is, we won," Dantonio said. "We're 9-1, so we advance and move forward. That's the bottom line."
Michigan State did that with just two offensive touchdowns, in part because of a shoulder injury that kept star quarterback Connor Cook on the sideline in the second half.
"He didn't have the arm strength to be full-go," Dantonio said. "He was the one that said, 'Hey, we have to go with the other guy.'
"I just landed on it funny. I just felt a little work at that point. I was off to the sideline to get it checked out. … I probably could have gone. But Coach D just wanted to keep me on the sideline for precautionary purposes."
After Cook was squashed on a pass attempt, Dantonio inserted backup Tyler O'Connor. The move paid off with a 50-yard drive for the game's first touchdown, a 10-yard pass to Macgarrett Kings.
Hills directed a 91-yard march to tie it at 7, capped by running back Brandon Ross' score from less than a half-yard out over left tackle.
Just when it seemed neither defense could do much, both took charge of the game with aggressive play, including five offside penalties on the Spartans.
Michigan State intercepted two passes by backup Terps quarterback Caleb Rowe and looked more like the unit that had led the program to Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl wins over the past two seasons.
Maryland responded, holding Cook to 6-for-14 and 77 passing yards and O'Connor to 6-for-11 and 44 yards. If not for pile-dragging runs by Gerald Holmes, who had 18 carries for 83 yards, the Spartans might have been vulnerable again.
Instead, the Terps had to be satisfied with a few hollow consolations. They held the Spartans to 262 yards of total offense and had three takeaways of their own, two on interceptions by safety Anthony Nixon.
The best news for Locksley's team: It finishes the season against Indiana at home and Rutgers on the road, a big change from the Michigan-Ohio State-Penn State-Iowa-Wisconsin-Michigan State gantlet it finished without a smile.