Next verse, same as the first. It was another case of deja vu for Michigan State at the Redbox Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif., on Monday, when the Spartans lost to Oregon, 7-6. It was another wasted effort by Michigan State’s No. 1-ranked run defense.
With the loss, Michigan State finishes the season 7-6, a year that got away from them because of some severe offensive deficiencies. Changes will need to be made for this to get better down the road.
Here’s what I liked — but mostly what I didn’t like — about the Spartans’ loss to Oregon:
What I liked
Spartans’ No. 1 run defense answers the bell
When you’re the best in the country at stopping the run, well, the game plan starts there. Michigan State proved their mettle Monday against Oregon, allowing the Ducks only 37 yards on 27 carries, a measly 1.4-yard average. They were also great in short yardage situations on third down, forcing 11 punts from the Ducks. This was no fluke, either. Oregon was averaging 37 points per game coming into the bowl game, and managed only 7.
LJ Scott played well, even when he didn’t have to
The trend these days for players preparing for the NFL Draft is to skip these semi-meaningless exhibition bowl games to avoid injury. Once Michigan State running back LJ Scott decided he was going to turn pro, he could have skipped out, too. But Scott, who missed eight games this season with an ankle injury, thought it might help to put some more good things on film. He did just that, rushing for 84 yards on 24 carries. That’s not bad considering that Michigan State’s offensive line still isn’t playing at a high level. Scott ends his career with 2,855 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Josiah Scott, MSU secondary saves the best for last
It’s no secret with how teams attacked Michigan State all year. Since it was next to impossible to run, teams picked on Michigan State’s secondary all year. Oregon, with its stud quarterback Justin Herbert leading the way, tried to do the same thing and had almost no success at all. Cornerback Josiah Scott and Josh Butler were in lock-down mode all day. This was somewhat surprising since the Spartans had been torched for 300 yards-plus passing on several occasions this year. These guys showed a lot, so much so that Scott was name the defensive player of the game.
What I didn’t like
Play-calling, execution on third down
When you only score 6 points, there’s got to be a good reason for the failures of Michigan State’s offense. The list is pretty long, obviously, but what hurt the most was its lack of ability to get things down on third down in scoring positions. Two nice drives early in the game ended with field goals. with third down passes falling incomplete. Then, after falling behind 7-6 on Oregon’s one good drive of the game, Michigan State got into scoring range twice. They missed one long 50-yard attempt, and then botched another 50-yarder with a mishandled snap. Both times, they could have gotten closer but failed on third down as well.
Brian Lewerke was better, but not good enough
Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke made his first start in two months, his throwing shoulder much improved after a stretch of ineffectiveness when he tried to play through the pain. You could tell he was feeling better, because he made some nice throws to the outside with plenty of zip on them. He couldn’t do that a few weeks ago. He finished 22 of 40 passing for 172 yards, but he had a really ugly interception early that was costly. What he did best, actually, was run with the ball. He used his legs to gain 63 yards, and he ran 16 times, half of those out desperation when his pocket collapsed. He scored only 6 points, which is never good, but it was good to see him back out there.