Nebraska 28, Michigan State 24: Kneejerk Reactions

Gregory Shamus

Initial thoughts after Michigan State's heartbreaking loss to Nebraska.

Oh man, that was awful. Here we go:

1. Excuse the double negative, but I can't not start out against the erroneous pass interference call against Darqueze Dennard that gave Nebraska the first down for the game-winning score. That call was brutal, but they went both ways: Michigan State was the beneficiary of a couple of dodgy pass interference calls when the ball may have been uncatchable and a personal foul call when a Nebraska player was blocked into a Spartan going out of bounds; Nebraska got the call above. The flags seemed to be thrown at a whim today, that's inexcusable. Speaking of flags:

2. Many people are pointing to Johnny Adams' personal foul during Dennard's pick six as the one play that should've turned the game, and I can't disagree with that. What I can't get behind is the onus of the blame falling solely on Adams, as Taylor Martinez gashed the Spartan defense on the flanks to the tune of 205 yards and two scores, a portion of the Cornhuskers' 473 yards on the day. Blame Andrew Maxwell and the receivers, who were erratic in the passing game today. Complain about Adams if you want, but that play was only one of several that could've turned the game.

3. It wasn't all dark clouds this afternoon, as Le'Veon Bell had a very good game (188 yards on 36 carries, 2 TDs) minus his one fumble. For all his foibles today Maxwell had a pretty 46-yard pass to Tony Lippett for a score. Dennard had two fantastic interceptions. The front seven put pressure on Martinez for a good portion of the game, but that pressure also opened running lanes which were used to successfully gash the Spartans for first downs. It wasn't all bad, just mostly bad. Optimism!

4. Regression towards the mean is hitting hard. In the last two years Michigan State has been 7-1 in games with a final margin of eight points or less (The one loss? Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game. Pain is disproportionate, y'all.) This year MSU is 3-4 in such games, and those four losses came by a total of 10 points. It's not that the Spartans have forgotten how to win close games, it's that they've been much more of a coin flip this year. Little solace, I know.

5. One of my favorite Dr. Who (for the uninitiated, he's a time traveling alien) episodes deals with Doctor Who and his companion, Amy Pond, going back to visit Vincent Van Gogh. In an attempt to alleviate Van Gogh's depression, the Doctor brings Vincent to an art museum in the present to see how his paintings are appreciated today. Vincent cries with happiness, but SPOILER ALERT: It doesn't work, and he commits suicide all the same.

The Doctor and Amy are back at the art museum when this exchange happens:

Amy Pond: We didn't make a difference at all.
The Doctor: I wouldn't say that. The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. Hey.
[hugs Amy]
The Doctor: The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.

This season has been a few good things (wins against Boise, at Wisconsin) and almost everything else has been in the bad things pile. It's been a disappointment, and I think there's very few who would disagree with me.

That said, there's still a purpose to keep playing. After next week's bye, a win over Northwestern at home in two weeks or at Minnesota the week after will put the Spartans in their sixth straight bowl game; a crappy bowl game yes, but nevertheless it's postseason football.

This season's been a lot of bad things. There's still good things out there though.

And hey, basketball tips off on Friday! That'll ease the pain. Hopefully.

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