Memorial Stadium

Bloomington, IN

Michigan State’s confidence was tenuous at best entering their matchup with the Indiana Hoosiers. It showed on the field as well with the Spartans falling to 2-2 on the season and Indiana improving to 3-1 after a 24-21 overtime loss to the Hoosiers.

This overtime battle ended with the Hoosiers on top, but shockingly nearly tied in total yards. Michigan State won that stat with 438 yards while Indiana had 437, but it was the final score that counted.

Despite the fact that MSU had a 14-0 lead, the Spartans found themselves down seven points until they scored a game tying touchdown with just 11 clicks on the clock remaining in regulation. Credit IU Head Coach Kevin Wilson.

Indiana head coach was aggressive and went on the attack for the final three quarters and in overtime. He said of his aggressive attack, “We had a couple good ones tonight. We missed a couple. I thought early because we were so conservative in the first half. We didn’t want to let it get away, so I went for it on fourth down, but I thought the defense could stop them.” He went on to say, “Well, you’ve seen where we were kicking field goals. I don’t know if that’s a guarantee right now. The thing that bummed me, the defense got a stop and the offense got the ball right back in scoring position and did nothing. Actually gave them the ball in good field position. That was the only issue in our whole game of anything that happened was we made an aggressive deal. We counted on our defense, and they came through and the offense didn’t.”

Tyler O’Connor took two critical sacks in overtime and struggling senior kicker Michael Geiger missed another kick. The Spartans found themselves on defense, on the road with the Hoosiers in the position to win. They did.

The Michigan State Spartans were sloppy on offense, defense, special teams and frankly even multiple times coaching. As much as Dantonio loves to champion team wins, this was without a doubt a team loss.  Not only were his coaches out coached and players out played, it is compounded with an undisciplined 11 critical penalties.

He said of the contest, “Too many mistakes by us, too many penalties, too many plays we could have made that we didn’t make.” Reflecting on missed opportunities Dantonio plainly said, “Get a drive at the end of game to tie it up but not very good in overtime, that’s for sure. We take two sacks, then we jump over the pile, (penalty on Drake Martinez) so very disappointed.”

I told Dantonio after the game that it was a rarity for the Dantonio era to see his team appear discombobulated in every phase of the game. I asked if my categorization of their team was accurate. “I can think of a lot of words, not (as nice) as discombobulated.”

“What we have to do now is claw our way back into things just in terms of playing winning football.”

For Dantonio he finds himself leading a team that has lost the first two games of Big Ten play for the first time since his first season in East Lansing as the head man in 2007. It is also the first time since a forgettable 2012 season that saw the Spartans lose two in a row.

MSU took the 14-0 lead with four minutes remaining in the third quarter, but the lead was not to be. The Spartans first drive of the fourth quarter clearly put in perspective Mark Dantonio’s lack of confidence in the kicking game.

MSU was up 14-0 and started the drive with a third and eight at their own 25. Facing a fourth and 8 on the Indiana 32 (a 49 yard field goal), anyone who knows Dantonio was certain he would take the field goal to go up three scores. He didn’t.

He went for it on fourth and eight. The Spartans would have made the first down, but Josiah Price was flagged for holding pushing the Spartans to a fourth and thirteen from the IU 37 and they punted. There are certain things you can count on from Dantonio and normally a field goal right there is one of them. His decision to go for it was very telling.

Geiger already had one kicked block in the contest and would later miss the chance to take the lead in overtime. It was a missed kick that holder Matt Macksood certainly shared culpability for in its failure.

QB Tyler O’Connor said afterword, “We converted on a lot of third downs and every time we were stopped I’m pretty sure it was a penalty or something silly. We just had to play well and not hurt ourselves.” He is right and they didn’t.

Dantonio said afterword “A very disappointing loss” and he was right. Now Dantonio finds his discombobulated team in trouble. He admitted and embraced the expectations that he has created with some amazing success and he has to fix it.

Where does he start? He has issues in every phase of the game and with his own coaches. He has earned the respect that he has and his track record says he will fix it. He just has to do it quickly.

Being behind the eight ball is not a place he is familiar with being in. Perhaps the most difficult thing for him is he has to look long and hard at his coaches. If everything rises and falls on leadership and I think it does, the Spartans head man has reasons to be concerned with his team and frustrated with some of the men paid well to lead it.