Michigan State report card: A few bright spots in loss to Michigan

EAST LANSING, MICH. - Chris Solari rates the Spartans on a scale of 1 to 10 after their 32-23 loss to Michigan:

Offense: 6

This was perhaps Michigan State’s best offensive output of the season, taking into account how well Michigan’s defense had been playing coming into Saturday. The Spartans put up 401 yards of total offense, including 217 rushing yards – 139 of them from LJ Scott. But 256 of MSU’s yards came in the fourth quarter, trailing by 20 points after fizzling after the first possession until then. QBs Brian Lewerke and Damion Terry both got hurt while helping lead three of those four frantic drives. The Spartans also had three fourth-down attempts fail, one of them faltering inside the 2-yard line with four running plays that gained minus-2 net yards.

Defense: 6

The Spartans played their best second half of the season to keep things close, allowing 149 yards and just one field goal early in the third quarter. It was the early-game breakdowns, though, that proved costly. Michigan finished with 436 yards, and MSU failed to register a sack for the third time this season. U-M got 5 of 12 third-down conversions and its only fourth-down try. The Wolverines exploited coverage breakdowns in the secondary that was missing Demetrious Cox and playing a number of young guys, with Amara Darboh catching eight passes for 165 yards. The Wolverines also got 192 rushing yards among their 436 total yards.

Special teams: 7

Michael Geiger went from making a career-long 52-yard field goal in the second quarter to missing a 34-yard attempt in the fourth. There wasn’t much in the punting game for either team, with just four punts total and three returns for 13 yards combined. MSU also contained Jabril Peppers and Jourdan Lewis on kickoff returns (two for 28 yards). A year ago, Peppers had 128 return yards.

Overall: 4

It might be six straight losses, but at least it wasn’t a blowout. That’s kind of a strange way to think about it, but it’s how the Spartans must face their 2-6 reality of playing a ton of young players and watching their bowl hope on life support and fading. Still, the mistakes continue to be across the board – including in coaching, such as kicking a field goal down 20 in the fourth quarter and going for a meaningless 2-point conversion trailing by 7 with 1 second to play. Mark Dantonio said it was to send a message, but the ball was returned the other way for 2 points for U-M. Regardless, MSU must win its final four games if it wants to assure a postseason – a tall task with Ohio State looming in three weeks.

Detroit Free Press


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