Having played in just four games this season, Michigan State running back Connor Heyward appears to be taking advantage of the NCAA’s redshirt rule. According to a report from Rainer Sabin of The Detroit Free Press, via Twitter, Heyward has entered the NCAA transfer portal and will begin evaluating his options for a possible exit from East Lansing.
Heyward is third on the Michigan State roster with 79 rushing yards after appearing in four games (Michigan State has played five games). Last season, Heyward rushed for 529 yards and five touchdowns, but his role in the Michigan State offense does not appear to have been changing for the better.
The NCAA redshirt rule allows a player to preserve a year of eligibility if they have played in no more than four games in a season. If the player has a redshirt season to spare, they can use that season and not have the playing time count against them. By entering his name in the transfer portal, Heyward is now eligible to have contact with any other football program who may wish to try recruiting him to their program.
It is not unprecedented for a player to pull his name out of the portal to remain at their current school, but time will tell which way Heyward chooses to go with his future.
You want defense and punting? Ohio State and Michigan State have you covered up in East Lansing. The Buckeyes and Spartans are in a battle for second place in the Big Ten East Division and points appear to be at a premium this afternoon in Big Ten play. At halftime in Spartan Stadium, Ohio State is leading Michigan State 7-0 thanks to a late touchdown drive capped by a short touchdown pass from Dwayne Haskins to Parris Campbell form the one-yard line.
The Big Ten’s leading rushing defense of Michigan State has not allowed Ohio State to get their running game going. J.K. Dobbins had just 11 rushing yards with five minutes to play in the first half, and that was nullified by Haskins being taken down for a loss of 11 yards in the half. Haskins now is up to 23 yards. Michigan State’s running game has fared only marginally better with a combined team rushing total of 10 yards. Connor Heyward had zero rushing yards in the first half.
In need of a spark, Michigan State has switched quarterbacks as well with Rocky Lombardi taking over for Lewerke late in the first half.
Michigan fans are likely paying close attention to this result, as it will impact the division-clinching scenarios for the Wolverines. A win by Michigan State could mean Michigan can build a two-game cushion on Ohio State in the Big Ten standings with a win against Rutgers later today. A win by the Buckeyes will leave the possibility of a regular season finale to determine the Big Ten East crown on the table.
Perhaps it was fitting for Maryland to end this week the way it did. Dressed in all black uniforms at home in the first game since the school fired DJ Durkin as head coach shortly after initially opting to reinstate him, Maryland (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) lost to Michigan State (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten) by a score of 24-3. Maryland was held to just 100 yards of offense in the entire game.
Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke returned to the starting lineup and had a rough day in terms of production by completing 11 of 20 passes for 87 yards with one interception. Lewerke, who sat out last week, also rushed for 45 yards on nine carries. Connor Heyward was the star of the game with 157 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns, including an 80-yard score one play after a crazy sequence that saw Maryland fumble an interception into the end zone, where it was recovered by the Spartans for a touchback. The result of the play ended up being a net-gain of four yards for Michigan State. Backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi got some playing time with the game well in hand for the Spartans.
With Matt Canada continuing his role as interim head coach after a bizarre week for the Maryland football program, the Terps turned in one of their worst performances of the season. It was evident this was a team that had its share of distractions this week as the Terrapins looked sloppy on offense and failed to keep composed on offense or defense at key times. Kasim Hill completed just eight of his 21 pass attempts for 74 yards and the team combined for a total of 26 rushing yards on 29 rushing attempts.
Michigan State will return home next week for a key division game against Ohio State. Second place in the Big Ten East will be on the line as the Spartans and Buckeyes are each chasing Michigan. The Buckeyes have been struggling and could be arriving in East Lansing ripe for a loss in the division, but will the Spartans have enough in the tank to scratch together a third-straight win?
Maryland will be on the road next week for a game against Indiana. The Hoosiers had off this week and last played on Friday, October 26th (a road loss at Minnesota despite a furious fourth-quarter rally). Maryland and Indiana have split their first four meetings as Big Ten division opponents, with Maryland winning last year’s contest by a 42-39 final score in College Park.
After a tumultuous week centered around the Maryland football program, the Terrapins got back to playing football on Saturday afternoon in front of their home crowd. It did not get off to a great start with the offense opening the game by going three-and-out and then seeing Michigan State work a 12-play drive to score their first touchdown in a first quarter since September 22. The Spartans have yet to put Maryland away with just a 10-3 lead at halftime in College Park.
One play after Michigan State converted a fourth-and-one from the Maryland 20-yard line with Brian Lewerke pushing forward two yards for a first down, Connor Heyward rushed 18 yards for a touchdown. It was the first time Michigan State had scored a first-quarter touchdown since a Week 4 game against Indiana. With Maryland’s offense looking out of sorts on their ensuing possession, Michigan State seized the opportunity to tack on a few more points with a field goal moments later.
Midway through the second quarter, with Maryland moving the football well for the first time all game, Michigan State’s Tyriq Thompson avoided being ejected form the game for a potential targeting penalty. A video replay overturned the call on the field, allowing him to stay in the game after his hit on Maryland quarterback Kasim Hill. Maryland ended that drive with a field goal.
On Michigan State’s following drive, Maryland defensive lineman Mbi Tanyi was ejected for throwing a punch, a 15-yard penalty that came at the end of a 3rd-and-9 play that appeared to show the Spartans pick up the first down anyway, but the penalty added 15 free yards. Fortunately for Maryland, the Spartans drive would stall and end with a punt.
It may have been easy to lose track of things regarding Maryland this season given the off-field headlines, especially over the last week. But both Michigan State and Maryland came into this game with identical 3-2 records in Big Ten play, so the outcome of this game is of some importance for the Big Ten bowl position at the end of the year. Both teams still need one win to become bowl eligible this season as well, and the winner of this game will end the day in at least a tie for third place in the Big Ten East behind Michigan and Ohio State.
With Saquon Barkley on the sidelines as Penn State celebrates homecoming, Miles Sanders has been showing he is not a bad running back either. Sanders has rushed for 145 yards and one remarkable touchdown to help Penn State take a 14-7 lead on Michigan State into halftime in Happy Valley.
Sanders ripped off a 78-yard run in the first quarter to setup a five-yard touchdown run by KJ Hamler to put Penn State in front in the first quarter. The one run alone nearly doubled the total rushing yards by Sanders two weeks ago against Ohio State, which he actually did later in the second quarter.
Michigan State tied the game early in the second quarter after lighting a spark with some trick plays that caught Penn State off guard. A fake punt run by Connor Heyward for a 36-yard gain on 4th-and-6 was later followed by Heyward completing a 36-yard pass to Cam Chambers to take the Spartans down to the one-yard line. From there it was a struggle, but the drive ended with La’Darius Jefferson pushing forward for a touchdown.
Penn State regained the lead when Sanders took a handoff from Trace McSorley on a draw and broke tackles and found room to work on his way to a 48-yard run. It was a run that looked like one that might have been ripped off by Barkley.
More importantly, Sanders gave Penn State a lead that it must now protect in the second half. Penn State has enjoyed plenty of success in the second half this season. Michigan State rallied in the second half to hand the Nittany Lions a tough loss in East Lansing last year. Can they do it again?