Michigan State fell to Iowa on Saturday night by a score of 26-16, dropping the Spartans’ record to 2-3. This is MSU’s third consecutive defeat after starting the season with a pair of victories over lower-level opponents. While MSU actually was competitive in last night’s game, even holding a lead going into the fourth quarter, we did see a continuation of a couple of troubling themes for this team: self-inflicted wounds and poor quarterback play.
That lead that MSU had going into the final fifteen was the result of a fumble caused by Tunmise Adeleye which took a fortuitous bounce right into the gut of Cal Haladay who then rumbled 42 yards for the score, even dragging a defender the final five or so yards and refusing to be tackled until he crossed the goalline. Aside from that, MSU’s scores came on a hat trick of Jonathan Kim field goals including a Kinnick Stadium record 58-yarder which has me thinking that Kicker Kim will be kicking on Sundays in the not-too-distant future. This means that in the current three-game losing streak, quarterback Noah Kim, no relation to Jonathan, has led Michigan State on a grand total of one touchdown drive (the lone touchdown in the Washington game was scored after Katin Houser was inserted).
Bottom line, Michigan State needs to put out an offense that is capable of scoring a touchdown more often than once every three games. Yes, there is a very unfortunate set of circumstances going on with this team currently. The injury list is growing at an exponential rate; hopefully the injury that knocked TE Maliq Carr out of the Iowa game is minor and he returns in time for Rutgers. And of course there is the Mel Tucker scandal, which we have no way of knowing how much of an emotional toll that has taken on the locker room. I will say that, from my couch, it does not appear as though this team has quit physically, but the absurd amount of crucial mistakes these last two games could be indicative of a team that has lost its mental acuity and is not psychologically prepared for competition.
So yes, let me be clear that I am not placing the entirety of the blame for this current skid on the shoulder pads of Noah Kim. Just last night we saw several other players costing the Spartans in crucial moments. Cal Haladay had an opportunity to seize a second turnover in the game when a tipped pass floated up into the air, but his diving effort to catch it ended with the ball slipping between his arms and hitting the ground for an incompletion. Backup DB Ade Willie got called for a pass interference call on a third down play which would have otherwise gotten the Spartans defense off the field; judging from the replays, I feel that that pass would not have been caught by the Hawkeye receiver so Willie’s grab was probably unnecessary. The aforementioned Kicker Kim doinked a field goal off the upright late in the third quarter which we know from his earlier kicks was well within his range. MSU got called for a pair of roughing the passer penalties on their way to a ten-flag night, awarding Iowa 94 free yards. Tre Mosley lost a fumble as he was scrambling for yards after a short catch while he was holding the ball in one arm way out from his body and never properly secured it before taking a massive hit which led to him being helped off the field. There were probably other miscues, but this list is already long enough to illustrate how the Spartans have been playing error-filled, undisciplined football.
None of the above, however, excuses the play of Noah Kim. The fact remains that he has not been getting Michigan State down the field, as is evident by his repeated off target throws, mostly of the under- or over-thrown variety which have resulted in his six interceptions during the losing streak, five over the last two games. I would almost argue that what he did best last night was pick up yards with his legs. I think I have reached the point where I can confidently say we have seen Noah Kim’s ceiling, and that is that of a quarterback who can make a few nice throws each game and can do some things with his legs to move the pocket or pick up yards on his own, but is not good enough to hit receivers on a consistent basis. Obviously, he is not capable of leading an offense down the field consistently and getting it into the endzone.
Michigan State is currently 2-3 on the season. They only have two games left this year at Spartan Stadium and they still have three games remaining against top-ten ranked divisional opponents. It is getting difficult to see where the four needed wins to become bowl-eligible are going to come from. As the eternal optimist, that pains me to say. So that is why I say that now is the time to make a change at the most important position in all of sports and give Katin Houser a shot as the starting quarterback. MSU has the bye week coming up meaning that Coach Barnett and company would have a full two weeks to prepare Houser for the promotion. Hopefully those two weeks will also bring some of the starters back from the injury list. Again, I am not placing the entirety of the blame for MSU’s losses on Noah Kim, but I am saying that in the last three games, the Spartans have had total yardage of 261, 376, and 349, and that just is not good enough.
Sometimes in football, and in sports in general, a team just needs to make a change to shake things up. Sometimes a quarterback, for any one of a number of possible reasons, just is not getting his offense to play to its potential. For the talent that MSU has amongst its skill positions, they should be able to score more than one touchdown every three games and they should be able to get close to, if not beyond, 400 yards of total offense in a game. Michigan State needs to play better. I believe they can play better, but I also worry that we are at a point where this season and this team could become totally lost if something does not change soon. Apologies to Noah Kim that you need to be the sacrificial lamb right now. May the football gods bring better fortune to the Spartans with Katin Houser under center.
In completely unrelated news I wanted to share this nugget from a recent comments section in TOC that I feel is worthy of a rewind. After an intruding Purdue fan showed up to express his objection to BBD’s score prediction for the Iowa game, commenter ohhimark(dantonio) laid out this wonderful pun:
Congrats, ohhimark, you are this week’s TOC reader of the week!