In the 6 losses last year, the Michigan State Spartans’ margin of defeat was only 7 points or less. In their first game on the road in California this year, they lost 38-31 and their margin of defeat was again 7 points or less.
This year begins the second season under the tutelage of Mark Dantonio and there are at least three things you can say with certainty about the Spartans: They are in every loss to the end, they play hard and they give up a lot of points on defense.
In its last 7 losses, Michigan State has given up 233 points (33+ per game) and scored 195 (27+ per game). Appreciate the fact that it’s tough to win games in Division 1-A (what the NCAA likes to call their Football Bowl Subdivision) when you see your opponent 5 touchdowns per game.
Dantonio thrives on defense. He was the architect of Ohio State’s defense on their 2002 National Championship team as defensive coordinator. He’s still a year or two away at Michigan State from recruiting his type of players and making them productive on the field. Believe me when I tell you that in the meantime you are getting tired of being signed up.
Jeff Tedford’s California Bears went 5-0 to start last season, rose to No. 2 in the AP Top 25 poll and then finished the regular season with a disappointing 1-6 before beating the Air Force in the Armed. Forces Bowl.
Against Michigan State, California once again got off to a quick start when Bryant Nnabuife returned a blocked punt for the first score and Cal took a 17-7 lead in the locker room at halftime.
After struggling on offense for three quarters, the Spartans were able to convert 3 third-down plays and received a gift penalty for mistreating the kicker during a 97-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard TD from Javon Ringer, approaching 3 points. at 24-21. Shane Vereen finally unleashed on an 81-yard scoring run to put Cal on top with 4:21 left.
Michigan State hit a 29-yard scoring pass from Brian Hoyer to Mark Dell to get within 7, and had another chance to try to tie in midfield, but Hoyer threw 4 incompletes in a row to end the game.
Brian Hoyer is a fifth-year senior quarterback for the Spartans. His in-game stats were 20 of 48 (41%) for 321 yards and 1 TD pass, all of which could be fine, but when the game was on the line, there was no leadership or good decision making on Hoyer’s part. . Senior Javon Ringer took 27 carries for 81 rushing yards and scored twice.
Last year Michigan State scored 33+ points per game and ranked 29th nationally in scoring offenses, but Mark Dantonio must realize he has a real problem on defense.
The Spartan Defense is so porous that they need to borrow that umbrella from Morton’s salt packaging label. You can’t give up 5 touchdowns a game and comfortably win more games than you lose. You have to close teams with a tight defense that says we’re going to shorten the field for you until you go nowhere.
Another problem concerns the big and bad players. No matter how ugly you play, when you lack speed you can’t catch the player running next to you. The state of Michigan lacks speed. California was a much faster team and that lead alone helped them win and Michigan State to lose.
The Spartans will host their rival in Eastern Michigan, which rushed for 413 yards and shut out 1-AA Indiana State 52-0 in its first home game. If Michigan State hopes to have some kind of season, the Spartans need to ride the Eastern Michigan Eagles as Seabiscuit in Pimlico.
Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley