Don't Blame the Flags

The Spartan defense had fans worried from the start. On the Wolverines first possession, MSU committed three straight penalties, the third a pass interference that took Michigan to the Spartan 38-yard line. They picked up one more, a personal foul, but that was offset by a Wolverine personal foul. The drive ended with a Michigan punt, no harm done.

EAST LANSING - Nobody likes penalties. Conventional wisdom says mental mistakes are what lose football games.

So with nine Michigan State penalties in the game, one could point to yellow flags to explain the loss to Michigan.

But on second look, the penalties didn't add up to defeat.

The Spartan defense had fans worried from the start. On the Wolverines first possession, MSU committed three straight penalties, the third a pass interference call on Ashton Henderson that took Michigan to the Spartan 38-yard line. They picked up one more, a personal foul, but that was offset by a Wolverine personal foul. The drive ended with a Michigan punt, no harm done.

The next green and white penalty was a false start that set them back to a second-and-ten situation. The next play, a seven-yard loss on a completed pass to Javon Ringer, had more to do with the stalled drive than the penalty.

Next came an MSU offsides in a series that saw Michigan eventually punt the ball to the MSU 41. Not a very costly penalty there.

Then there was another personal foul penalty. But this one came in a second-and-goal situation. Sure, holding UM to a field goal might have been a possibility, but the 32-yard run before that penalty had more to do with the score than the flag.

It wasn't until their final penalty of the first half that it began to sting. On a third-and-seven, Brian Hoyer completed a pass to Andrew Hawken for an eight-yard gain to the Michigan 33. But a hold brought the play back to a third-and-17. The drive, which looked destined for a field goal at worst, stalled and MSU punted.

In the second half the Spartans settled down and recorded only two penalties. The first was an illegal shift on MSU's opening touchdown drive.

The second was a bit more costly. Yet another personal foul moved Michigan from the MSU 40-yard line to the MSU 25. But that penalty came after a Ryan Mallett fumble recovered by Mike Hart. It's hard to argue it was the penalties costing MSU when the Spartans couldn't capitalize on three forced fumbles.

It's hard to argue penalties equaled defeat when typically sure-handed receivers were dropping passes.

It's hard to argue penalties are to blame when the passing game is out-of-sync with overthrown, underthrown and just plain poorly thrown passes for much of the game.

It wasn't those little yellow flags that cost Michigan State the game; it was poor execution.


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