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Spartans lack execution in loss to Northwestern

Michigan State searches for answers after a disappointing performance against the Wildcats

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans were beaten 29-19 by the Northwestern Wildcats, making it their third straight loss to the university. Until now, the Spartans had never lost three games in a row to one school during the Dantonio era.

Northwestern marched the ball down the field with ease despite being one dimensional due to the MSU defense — who entered today’s game as the top ranked run defense in the nation. The Spartans were unable to stop the Wildcats air attack during the final minutes of regulation and allowed Clayton Thorson to pass at will for the majority of the contest.

MSU has now been outscored 51-7 during the fourth quarter in their last four games.

“When you lose a football game you look back at three, four, or five plays that are difference makers and game changers,” said Mike Tressel after a disappointing loss to Northwestern. “I think if you have 80 snaps of football and 70 of them are fantastic, it doesn’t necessarily win you a football game.”

The Spartan secondary has struggled against Clayton Thorson and Northwestern’s ability to pass the ball for multiple years now. In his last three starts against MSU he has thrown for 1,010 yards, eight touchdowns, three interceptions, and gave his team three victories.

Thorson managed to gash the Michigan State defense twice on throws over 30 yards that resulted in 14 points (one touchdown came on a blown coverage which went for 77 yards).

“We can’t give up big plays, I thought the one (pass) was an excellent throw by Thorson — I thought he had a great game. He’s a very good quarterback and they made some plays,” said Dantonio during his opening statement.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Spartan offense has been known for making timely plays at the right time. Unfortunately, fans saw them going in the opposite direction for most of the game today.

On the surface, it seems as though Brian Lewerke is regressing but the offense is going through so much more than that. MSU can’t find consistency on it’s offensive line, resulting in a poor rushing attack which puts more pressure on Lewerke — and it doesn’t help that he was without two of his top four receivers. While guys like Cam Chambers and Brandon Sowards had nice games / catches they simply aren't Cody White or Jalen Nailor.

Fellow linemen, Blake Bueter and Matt Carrick saw their faire share of playing time on the O-line today due to Kevin Jarvis (didn’t dress) and David Beedle being out for all or most of the contest. They were also without LJ Scott for the third week in a row.

Michigan State is riddled with injuries, but that’s no excuse. As Dantonio alludes too, this is football. You win as a team and you lose as a team. No one person is at fault. They simply didn’t get it done today.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, the Spartans did what they do best which is completely stop their opponents ability to run the ball. The Wildcats finished the game with a total of eight rushing yards.

It’s hard to imagine another team having a better performance over the weekend. MSU should continue to be the nations top rushing defense but it doesn’t change their inability to stop teams through the air.

One thing is for certain, the Spartan leaders on defense, plan on stepping up after the loss today.

“We’re gonna have to look in the mirror, look at ourselves, and we have to regroup. We are making mistakes that shouldn’t be there and I feel like on both sides of the ball I can attest to that,” said senior captain Khari Willis when asked how his team plans on turning things around.

It’s about leadership, accountability, and execution. Both Willis and Bachie didn't hold back when telling everyone how they felt about the loss, how they plan on fixing things, and what it’s going to take to get to the next level.

“We are going to demand results, that’s what the bottom line comes down too. We know what to do, we’re just not doing it to the best of our ability,” said Willis. “In order to get the results out of our guys, we’re going to confront guys and we’re going to demand it each and every day.”

Injury Notes

  • Kevin Jarvis, Collin Lucas, Jalen Nailor, and Andre Welch didn't dress for today’s game.
  • David Beedle left the game early in the first quarter and was later seen on the sidelines in a sling.
  • LJ Scott was sidelined for the third week in a row.
  • Josiah Scott didn’t dress / play but earlier in the week Dantonio said he was closing to practicing.