This was a tough season for Michigan State. The Spartans dealt with a ton of injuries, especially on the offensive side of the ball, and they wasted a great season by the top-ranked defense because they never could get anything going offensively.
Because of that, there were plenty of ugly memories from this year, almost all of which came from having to watch the offensive struggle so badly. It really was, at times, almost impossible to watch.
Here are my five least-favorite moments of the 2018 season:
1. The dud against Michigan, because of the stakes
When it’s your hated rival from down the road, you really want to play well and come away with a win. That’s been the best part of the Mark Dantonio era in Michigan State, his dominance of the loud-mouthed rivals from Ann Arbor. But not this time, and it was sad to see.
Michigan’s defense, which was also very good this year, completely shut down the Spartans in the 21-7 win. Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke, who was playing hurt and didn’t want to miss such an important game, was just 5-for-25 passing for just 66 yards. He had dismal a 3.3 quarterback rating. This was probably a game where Dantonio made a mistake in keeping Lewerke in the game for so long. He had no chance for success against that stingy Michigan defense.
2. Failing to score a touchdown in high-profile bowl loss
Michigan State’s season ended with a 7-6 loss to Oregon in the RedBox Bowl on Dec. 31. It was a perfect 60-minute synopsis of their entire season, where the defense played well enough to win, but the offense couldn’t get points on the scoreboard.
It was a shame too, because they were actually moving the ball between the 20s. LJ Scott, who missed eight games with an ankle injury, was back in action and he rushed for 84 yards. Lewerke, healthy for the first time in two months, threw for 172 yards and ran for another 63. But the Spartans couldn’t score a touchdown, and that was that. Michigan State’s defense completely stifled Oregon’s offense, which had been averaging 32 points a game coming in. They faltered on only one drive all year and it’s a shame that it was too much.
3. The pure ugliness of the 9-6 loss at Nebraska
Sure, the weather was terrible in Lincoln, Neb., on Nov. 17, but this game was rough on the eyes. It was downright ugly, without a single touchdown being scored all day in the Cornhuskers’ 9-6 win. Neither quarterback topped 150 yards passing and no one ran for more than 80 yards in this defensive battle.
Nebraska won the game with three field goals in the final quarter. Michigan State was in the red zone often, but couldn’t muster a score. “We had too many drops,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “If you’ve got to point to one thing in the football game, it would be the dropped passes. I thought Lombardi played pretty well. At the end of the day, you’ve got to put the ball in the end zone in the red zone.”
4. Losing without running it at home to Ohio State
Once again, a great defensive effort was wasted by Michigan State in the 26-6 home loss to Ohio State. It’s never fun to lose at home — especially to a rival — and this one was no different. Sure, Ohio State was the eventual Big Ten champ and went 13-1, but it seemed like the Spartans didn’t even put up a fight on offense.
Michigan State running backs only had 6 carries the entire game, gaining only 5 yards. The Spartans instead threw it 48 times (Lewerke 28, Lombardi 20), and the two quarterbacks ran 9 times themselves, mostly out of desperation. It was a one-dimensional attack for sure, and it failed miserably with just the 6 points.
5. Beating Rutgers in finale, but looking terrible doing it
This was our final regular-season reminder in East Lansing of this 2018 season, and even though they beat Rutgers 14-10, this was an ugly game that, sadly, gets seared into the memory banks.
Let’s be honest: Rutgers is awful. It finished the season 1-11 and didn’t win a single Big Ten game. It took a 22-yard touchdown run by Michigan State’s Cody White to finally give the Spartans the lead at 14-10 with just 3 minutes left in the game. A win is a win, I suppose, but this one was ugly. Rutgers lost to Ohio State 52-3 and Michigan 42-7. So a last-minute win isn’t much to brag about.