BYU was an honorable opponent, and this was evident from the moment they stepped onto the field. As what started out as a gorgeous day in East Lansing, the Cougars placed flowers at the third and sixth yard lines, in honor of late Spartans Mike Sadler and Mylan Hicks. However, this beautiful moment shared between Michigan State and BYU did not last, as the Cougars fought hard and shredded the Spartans football team on their own turf.
Heading into the first quarter the Spartans seemed high energy and excited to play. BYU kept the play calling fresh: alternating between running Williams and Hill passing. The Spartans had some major holes amongst the front four; Raequan Williams was out with an injury received during the Indiana game, and Malik McDowell who was suspended the first half due to a targeting call the week before. Gerald Holmes received the start at running back. Tyler O'Connor came out more confident and poised than seen before, and was following through on his passes and driving the team down the field. On their first offensive possession the Spartans came out swinging by using a mix of rushing and passing. Donnie Corley was huge target for O'Connor throughout the first drive, he had sticky hands. As Michigan State inched closer to the end zone they trusted Holmes with the ball, he pushed and fought until he found the end zone with 4:10 left in the first. The Geiger extra point was good, and the Spartans gained a 7-0 lead over the Cougars. As the first quarter went on it was clear as day that the Spartans were losing steam and their game play was already beginning to tarnish because of penalties and bad play decisions. The Spartans were unable to produce like they did with their first drive and at the end of the first, MSU had 69 total yards: 23 rushing, 46 passing. Compared to BYU’s 45 total yards: 32 rushing, 13 passing. Spartans led 7-0.
BYU came out the second quarter determined to score. It was evident that the Spartans still struggled with third down defense as they allowed the Cougars to push towards the end zone. It’s important to note that the Spartans defense was missing two linebackers due to injury: Riley Bullough and Jon Reschke. Their absence leaves a huge hole for the younger guys to fill. Offensively, having some bland play calling has affected the Spartans this season and it was fairly evident in their first couple second quarter drives. With only a 7-0 lead the Spartans released their foot from the gas pedal and decided to play it safe by keeping the ball on the ground. With thirty seconds left in the first half BYU drove hard to get the ball into the end zone. They settled for a field foal attempt, which was successful. Heading into halftime the score was 7-3 Michigan State. At the end of second quarter, MSU had 105 total yards: 59 rushing, 46 passing. Compared to BYU’s 155 total yards: 67 rushing, 88 passing. Tyler O'Connor was 6-9 with 46 yards. He did not throw a single pass in the second quarter.
Malik McDowell rejoined the Spartans for the second half. Michigan State started the third quarter with the ball. Tyler O'Connor completed a pass to Shelton for the first play of their drive, something that was not seen in the second quarter. O'Connor received his first sack of the game and Michigan State punted. BYU attacked again on the offense by using Hill for rushing. BYU displayed some versatile play calling to find themselves in the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point was good, and the Spartans found themselves trailing 10-7. It was made very clear by BYU that they came to win, they were attacking from all angles. BYU continued to mix up its offensive game by playing second string running back, Squally Canada. Who also had some impressive carries. At the end of the third quarter, MSU had 112 total yards: 54 rushing, 58 passing. Compared to BYU’s 263 total yards: 131 rushing, 132 passing. Overall it was an extremely frustrating third quarter for the Spartans.
BYU started the fourth quarter right where they left off, charging towards the end zone full speed ahead. After shedding just barely three minutes off the clock Taysom Hill ran one into the end zone with a successful extra point. The Cougars led the Spartans 17-7. The Spartans were left with 12:43 to score at least twice. The Spartans pulled Tyler O'Connor and sent in Damion Terry. First play? Fumble and a false start. When looking at the quarterback switch it’s important to understand that the problem wasn’t actually O'Connor who was 7-11, but perhaps the offensive play calling. Again, this is something the Spartan offense has struggled with all season. However, Damion Terry was having some success with driving the Spartans down field until he threw an interception. This is a team that appeared to be struggling with confidence and leadership, because once again BYU found the end zone for a touchdown with a successful extra point. BYU had extended their lead 24-7. The Spartans were able to find the end zone with 4:59 left in the game. After a glimmer of hope provided by a late touchdown BYU continued to drive and found the end zone for themselves. The glimmer of hope had faded.
BYU defeated Michigan State 31-14. This was a bloody battle for the Spartans not because they fought hard, but because they didn’t. The Spartans were unable to find their groove early on in the season, and it appears as if they may never find it. The Spartans will host Northwestern next Saturday; as a 2-3 team this is a reality Spartan Nation hasn’t had to face in a while.
Below is video of Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio's opening statement to the media following the game.
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