Spartans fall out of race with 33-23 loss to OSU

It's still the 'big two' and the 'little eight',, make that 'little nine.' Michigan State showed that they still belong to the latter group after Saturday's 33-23 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday. However, after last season's 4-8 finish, being the best of the 'little nine' might not be that bad.

It's still the "Big Two" and the "little eight", well make that nine, and the Michigan State Spartans proved that they are still in the latter category after a 33-23 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Craig Krenzel threw three touchdown passes against a pourous Spartans secondary and kicker Mike Nugent added field goals of 44, 42, 24 and 18 yards to knock off the fading Spartans.

For Michigan State, despite Jeff Smoker's 35-of-55 for 251 yards and two touchdown effort including one each to Agim Shabaj and Aaron Alexander, MSU was never in this one and the problems that were easily glossed over early in the season by an effective offense are resurfacing in a big way for MSU.

First, despite the Spartans lofty ranking defensively against the run, they really aren't that good at stopping it. The Buckeyes rushed for 205 yards including Lydell Ross' 127 yard effort on 27 carries. Krenzel added 47 more on 14 carries, that's way too many yards for a quarterback who isn't really a rushing quarterback.

The pass defense was even worse. Krenzel, who isn't really a passing quarterback either, exploited the poor Spartan coverage, going 12-of-23 for the three TDs and just one interception.

Third, MSU can't run the ball effectively. It's laughable for a team that came into the game with a 4-1 conference record to come out of it with just five net yards rushing, five!

While the Spartans gained a paltry 34 yards total, they lost 29 in sacks and tackles for losses. Jason Teague carried five times for 14 yards, but Jaren Hayes, who was expected to carry the mail for the Green and White, is becoming less and less of a real factor in the run game, rushing four times for just 2 yards.

MSU didn't even win the battle of the special teams. Nugent outbooted State's Dave Rayner four field goals to one.

So how does MSU fix the problems before a suddenly troublesome game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall stadium on Saturday.

MSU must address the problems in the defensive interior front. The undersized Spartans appear to have a problem against big front lines. They were mauled by Michigan and Ohio State to a lesser degree. They can't expect a breather going into Madison, WI. It took a Rhys Lloyd field goal with time expiring for the Gophers to defeat the Badgers 37-34 at the Metrodome.

MSU may be in the "little eight", nine, but after a 4-8 finish just a season ago, being the biggest of the little nine might not be such a bad thing. EXTRA POINTS: In a bit of good news for the Spartans, injured starting tackle Stefon Wheeler, who was carted off the field in Columbus on a stretcher after briefly being unable to move on his own power, has regained all of his motor skills and was expected to be discharged from a Columbus area hospital today.

"He said he got hit on top of the head," MSU coach John L. Smith said. "That's all I know. Any time you see a player [laying on the field] that still, it's very scary. But by the time he left the field, I saw him move his feet and I felt a lot better."

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