EAST LANSING, MICH. - Mark Dantonio was right.
It CAN get worse.
Still searching for rock bottom, Michigan State plunged a few depths lower today, further wallowing into the abyss of self-pity. The Spartans tried a new quarterback, but still had the same issues with poor interior line performance, a defensive secondary with more leaks than a colander and a senior class that simply isn’t up to the challenge of its predecessors.
Can everyone stop with the nonsense that something’s salvageable with this season?
It’s over. It’s done. It was done two weeks ago. Wipe your eyes. Blow your nose.
While there remains nobility in fighting the futile battle because of the educational merits of adversity, there’s also a realistic point of diminishing value in a season that’s already fallen far past disappointing. After the Spartans’ 54-40 loss to Northwestern – giving Dantonio his first four-game losing streak as a head coach – their season has free fallen toward disastrous.
Michigan State started redshirt freshman quarterback Brian Lewerke. Dantonio pulled him for embattled fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor in the third quarter. O’Connor pulled the Spartans to within two points with two long touchdown passes.
And then … Michigan State surrendered a 95-yard kickoff return for a Northwestern touchdown.
You can’t make up this stuff.
Enemies over the last eight years will take out their vengeance on the Spartans currently curled up in the fetal position. And there’s little they can do about it.
But this can become a one-year aberration.
But that’s solely up to Dantonio.
Dantonio should have a serious discussion with his good friend, Nick Saban. If not for Saban, Dantonio doesn’t rocket up to the top of the list of the three-person Michigan State football coaching search committee 10 years ago. But Saban’s also the correct example of a successful head coach who doesn’t let his stubbornness overrule his common sense.
Saban hired Lane Kiffin as his offensive coordinator three years ago because he knew that – if he didn’t adapt to more spread, empty backfield, offensive formations – Alabama couldn’t keep its competitive edge over the rest of the SEC as well as the rest of the country. Saban wasn’t necessarily a big fan of Kiffin’s often-prickly personality. And Saban’s never been an offensive risk-taker.
But Saban was smart enough to know that programs that don’t constantly evolve get left behind.
Michigan State’s at that crossroads.
The Spartans’ better players right now are their youngsters on both sides of the ball. That’s a testament to Dantonio’s improved recruiting over the last three years – at least if you believe the hyperbole of the recruiting rankings – has increased the overall talent level in this program. But it risks being wasted in 2017 and beyond unless Dantonio surrounds himself with offensive and defensive coordinators that can best utilize the upgraded athleticism among the freshmen and sophomores on this roster.
This senior class for Michigan State is awful. Sorry, but it’s the truth. Northwestern regularly picked on senior safety Demetrious Cox all game long. The Wildcats’ biggest pass plays came on Cox’s side of the field. He’s a good kid. He was voted a co-captain. He’s worked hard. But he’s not any good. He’s one of many veteran liabilities on the field for Michigan State.
Dantonio assures everyone that he’ll fix what’s troubling his program. But that first requires a proper diagnosis of the problem.
Detroit Free Press