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Defense dominates, but Spartans fall short in Redbox Bowl

The Spartans defense did almost everything in the Redbox Bowl against Oregon, but it wasn’t enough.

NCAA Football: Redbox Bowl-Michigan State vs Oregon Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe fans should come to expect this level of defense from the 2018 Michigan State Spartans. But it’s almost impossible not to be impressed by the performance Monday.

MSU lost to the Oregon Ducks in the Redbox Bowl 7-6 in Santa Clara, California. Kicker Matt Coghlin provided the only scoring for the Spartans, making a pair of 34-yard kicks in the third quarter. Oregon’s lone score came on the first drive of the fourth quarter, with a Justin Herbert 28-yard pass to Dillon Mitchell.

On the Spartans second to last drive of the game, Coghlin lined up to attempt a 50-yard field goal. Earlier in the fourth quarter, the kicker missed from this same distance. However, he would never get a second opportunity. The snap was bobbled by Brian Lewerke and he was forced out of bounds after attempting to make a pass.

The game was the perfect representation of the Spartans season, especially the last month of games. Despite complete dominance by the MSU defense against an explosive Oregon offense, the Spartans weren’t able to do much of anything with the ball.

For most of the day, the difference was the running game for both teams. On offense, Oregon relied on a strong ground game throughout the season to counterbalance star quarterback Herbert. But against MSU, the Ducks rushing attack was non-existent. The Spartans only allowed 37 yards on the ground. That kept the overall Oregon offense to just 203 yards.

Oregon was forced to punt an astounding 11 times.

On offense, the Spartans ability to run the ball gave the defense enough time to rest on the sideline. Leading the way was senior LJ Scott, who went for 84 yards in his final game with the Spartans. Lewerke, who was starting his first game in two months, rushed for 63 yards, most of which came on scrambles after a passing play broke down.

While they tallied enough points to get the win, there were plenty of scoring opportunities that were missed. Lewereke and the Spartans made three trips inside the Oregon red zone, two resulting in field goals and the third in an infuriating interception on a play that started with a fumbled snap and finished with a failed attempt to throw the ball away.

Cody White was the Spartans best and most consistent option in the passing game, catching 6 passes for 64 yards.