MADISON, Wis. I dont know where Michigan Statefootball goesfrom here. Because its one thing to expect too much, but you should expect more than this.
To think, the fear a few weeks ago was that MSU would waste this defense.
This defense is now unmistakably part of a collective squad that doesnt measure up with the top of the Big Ten.
The way this 38-0 loss at Wisconsin went down is the stuff of other eras of Spartan football, eras not so long ago when being outclassed and undisciplined was the norm, when being steamrolled out of the Big Ten race was a regular midseason occurrence. Those eras didnt end well. The trajectory of this era took a dire turn Saturday.
To be this badly overmatched in just about every phase of the game shouldnt happen to a team with this many veterans, this many NFL hopefuls, led by a seasoned coaching staff whos had this much time with them.
This once-revered MSU defense got picked apart by Wisconsin, lending credence to its struggles against Indiana and in the second quarter at Ohio State and on fourth-down-and-forever against Arizona State. That loss to the Sun Devils changed the vibe of this season. Saturdays bludgeoning by the Badgers turned the vibe ugly.
Theres a reason fans arent athletic directors. Schools would go through six football coaches a season. But you ought to expect a more competitive effort, better execution and discipline,more big-time game-ready playmakers on offense, and an offensive line that doesnt look this out of its league. You ought to expect a team that fights to the final bell.
Im not one to question the heart of someone who chooses to play college football. Its a brutal and unforgiving sport. Playing this particular Wisconsin team in Camp Randall Stadium is brutal and unforgiving beyond that. But Northwestern had more punch thanthis here a couple weeks ago. Weve seen MSU play Northwestern.
For this MSU football team, for MSU football in general, this was dispiriting and discouraging.
The one unit it thought it knew could compete on a national level, its defense, couldnt get off the field. It didnt get run over. The gashes were4-, 5-, 11- and 13-yard paper cuts. But Wisconsin got what it needed to on the ground, putting together three double-digit-play drives of 75 yards or more. Meanwhile, MSUs defense looked helpless against Badgers QB Jack Coan and his receivers. Coan completed 18 of 20 passes. He threw it in tight windows and his receivers made plays. Other than one sack-fumble recovered by the Badgers, MSUs defense couldnt get to Coan, who got rid of the ball quickly and decisively.
Conversely, MSU senior QB Brian Lewerke missed on some makeable throws, missed seeing a couple open receivers and took one bad sack after missing his tight end open with the end zone in sight. His receivers didnt help him one bit. If there was a chance to make a play, MSUs wideouts didnt do it. That was the Spartans only hope offensively. MSUs offensive lineisnt up to this. Its hard to be a competent offense when you rush for 30 yards at 1.4 yards per carry.
The MSU offense was as meek as ever. The offensive game plan was uninspiring. No tempo, one too many fruitless jet sweeps (That would be one jet sweep, down 17-0 on second-and-9, Cody White around the right edge for, you guessed it, zero yards). Nothing with great imagination. Im not sure there was a game plan, though, that would have given MSUs offense a shot at keeping pace. That work has to be done in recruiting and development. Largely up front. But the contrasts were evidentelsewhere, too.
The only moment of faint hope for MSU was a desperate fake punt in the third quarter that went for 20 yards. This one wont be one of Mark Dantonios fabled fakes.
This wont be one of his fabled days.
It might be remembered as something else.
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Contact Graham Couch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Graham_Couch.