Michigan State Football: Winners and Losers from Spartans' Loss to Ohio State
No. 14 Ohio State held off No. 20 Michigan State (AP Top 25) 17-16 in a tense matchup between two ranked Big Ten teams. It's a gut-wrenching loss for a Spartans team that saw plenty of opportunities fall by the wayside, sometimes through no fault of their own.
A one-point loss is always a bitter pill to swallow, and Michigan State will need to set its sights on the future if it hopes to avoid a big slide in the coming weeks. Even with this defeat in hand, the Spartans have a talented team and a bright future. As coach Mark Dantonio said after the game (per MSUSpartans.com),
You lose a game 17 to 16, you have a tendency to say 'what if' a lot. When you lose by one point it's a big failure. But I can handle the mistakes if our guys play hard, compete, play with energy, take what you've got and keep moving forward.
Before the Spartans and their fans move ahead, let's take one last look at the winners and losers from Michigan State's bout with the Buckeyes.
Loser: Travis Jackson and the Spartans O-Line
The Spartans suffered another loss against the Buckeyes. Their starting center, sophomore Travis Jackson, broke his leg in the second quarter and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
Going forward, it's a huge blow to the Spartans offensive line, who lose the heart of their line and their primary signal-caller.
As running back Le'Veon Bell (who could only manage 45 yards behind a patchwork MSU line) said (per MLive.com):
That was a huge loss. He's the line to the quarterback. He makes all the calls. He's like the general.
With Jackson, tackle Fou Fonoti and projected starting guard Blake Treadwell all out with major injuries, Michigan State needs to hope its offensive line depth is sufficient.
The strength of the O-line is now a major question with this Spartans team, and one that should be answered definitively in the coming weeks.
Winner: Keith Mumphrey
Michigan State wide receivers haven't yet cured their chronic butterfingers, but at least one of them deserves some accolades for his playmaking ability.
That man is WR Keith Mumphrey, who totalled 79 yards on five catches.
If the Spartans had won, Mumphrey would warrant a game ball, if only for a fantastic individual effort on a third-quarter play-action pass into the flat that he turned into a 29-yard touchdown.
Mumphrey caught the ball on the run, stumbled past a defender and into traffic. He proceeded to break four tackles on the way to a remarkable second-effort TD that put the Spartans ahead 13-10 at the time (video above).
Mumphrey said after the game (via MSUSpartans.com):
The only thing on my mind was effort because the (coaches) had been preaching that all week. Effort gets you a lot of things you want in life. Even though we still had drops, we did great. Everything is there and if we do the little things right, everything will fall in place.
The Spartan pass-catchers still need to cut down on their drops, but plays like this illustrate effort and improvement from MSU's receiving corps.
Loser: Officials with Quick Whistles
Let's get the necessary caveat out of the way: Ohio State had a great game plan, made big plays and got stops when they needed to.
Now for the qualifier: But, if the referees aren't quick to blow the whistle on a game-changing play early in the fourth, then the Spartans probably win this game.
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller fumbled on the play and the ball bounced right to Spartans S Kurtis Drummond. Drummond scooped up the ball and began running unimpeded down the right sideline for a sure touchdown.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, the play was blown dead as the officials thought Miller's knee was down.
Upon review, the play call was reversed, with the refs awarding the Spartans possession but nixing the touchdown (since everything after the whistle is considered dead).
The Spartans wound up with only three points on the ensuing drive instead of a sure seven. In a game ultimately decided by a single point, that was a huge swing.
The refs should only blow these kinds of plays dead if they're sure the player's knee is down. The call can always be reversed after the fact if the play is live, but a dead play can't be reviewed. The refs need to be more disciplined in the future, as this cost the Spartans a huge win.
Winner: Urban Meyer
Urban Meyer's first conference game as coach of the Buckeyes turned out to be a signature win for his team.
Meyer's game plan was simple: stack the box against the run and stop Le'Veon Bell from running amok. He succeeded in doing so, holding Bell (who came in with 610 yards on 117 carries) to only 45 rushing yards.
His D held the Spartans to just 34 total rushing yards, and though MSU's passing game had some success (269 passing yards), Ohio State's maligned defense came up big in this game. When the Spartans got the ball with 5:39 remaining, down by a point, OSU's defense stopped them, allowing only one first down.
Meyer was happy with his team bringing home a tough win, saying (via the Associated Press):
This was a war. This was two sledgehammers going at each other. I know the Big Ten has taken some heat. That was a great game. Great atmosphere, a bunch of great players on the field that are going to be playing at the next level, and that was good for college football and good for the Big Ten.
Meyer is now the third OSU coach to start his first season 5-0. Even though they aren't eligible to win the conference title due to NCAA sanctions, Meyer and Ohio State look poised for a great season.
Loser: Late-Game Spartans Defense
The Spartans D looked strong on Saturday, holding OSU to just 16 points and forcing three turnovers (including one that should have been a defensive touchdown).
But they couldn't make the stops when they were needed.
Following Keith Mumphrey's brilliant 29-yard touchdown play, the Spartans D couldn't maintain momentum. On the ensuing drive, they gave up a one-yard QB run on third down, then a 63-yard bomb to Devin Smith for the game-deciding score.
Even worse, they let OSU run out the clock on the last 4:10 of the game with a drive that started on their 18-yard line. Buckeyes running back Carlos Hyde got a huge first down on a 3rd-and-4 run that allowed OSU to drain the clock.
Michigan State's D isn't a huge problem, but they've got to make the big plays to win close games.