"Big disappointment!"

Hondo S. Carpenter

October 6, 2007

East Lansing, MI

Spartan Stadium


Coming into today’s game the Spartan Nation had one thing on their mind: would the Spartans collapse?


To call today’s performance a collapse wouldn’t be fair, but to call it a big disappointment (Dantonio did) would be accurate. The Spartans came out and had a chance to beat a NWU team that had lost to Duke (yes that Duke) and couldn’t get it done after dominating UM for three quarters. The Spartans lost 48-41 in over time.


For the third straight game there were coaching decisions that left you scratching your head, there where penalties that didn’t make sense and missed tackles that made you scream. For now, I want to address a more pertinent topic: is this team the same as the teams from the past?


I love MSU. People who call me a homer don’t understand that I take that as a compliment. I am sick of people in my profession that do have bias and report with it all the while trying to hide it. I don’t. The difference is that I want to be fair. So was it a collapse like last season? Here is the answer to that.


This team did everything that it hasn’t done the last few years this week. They had great practice, they didn’t point fingers and they stayed on focus. So what happened? Again we will talk about the above-mentioned mistakes later but here is an honest look.


Coming into the season if I would have told you that we would start 4-2 most of you would have been thrilled. We all knew that this team was lacking players that the Dantonio system needed. In fact, if you read over the archives of Spartan Nation you will see that when asked after, 1, 2, 3 and even 4 wins if I wanted to change my OPTIMISTIC prediction of 6 wins I said no…emphatically.


This MSU team is better than last year. There is an abundance of young players that are playing and that only bodes well for the future. This team has issues because there is a bunch of people who are still apart that were part of the problems in that past and some habits diehard.Â


I will say this, these are not the Spartans of old. I go to every game home and away. I am around the program, and I think that I can give an honest analysis of where we are at this point. At the very least, I can give my perspective. I go to practice. I am around the players and coaches. I know them and many of their families. Last season (and before) you saw kids pointing fingers and playing "the blame game." You saw head coaches that blamed assistants (although not by name) and players by name. Assistants used to blame other assistants or players. This was the rule, not the exception. In the past you had players who blamed anyone but themselves and parents that pointed fingers at coaches. I saw seven things today that emphatically showed me that this was not the MSU team of years past.


 

  1. Treadwell protected the D and Coach Narduzzi by telling us that it was his fault that they didn’t score enough points. In past years the coaches loved to blame the other side of the ball.
  2. Narduzzi told us that Treadwell was wrong because 41 points was plenty and that it was his entire fault. In past years the coaches loved to blame the other side of the ball, if that sounds familiar please reread #1.
  3. Coach Dantonio blaming himself for it all. In the past, the coach would say that but point out what coaches or players screwed up.
  4. A player told me with tears in his eyes how badly he wanted this for Coach Dantonio because they aren’t the same MSU team. In past years the players actually searched me out to tell what the coaches were doing wrong.
  5. In past years parents would email and bemoan decisions by other kids or coaches to try to vindicate their kids. Today I actually had a parent tell me that they were going to, ”Let my kid know that mental mistakes are unacceptable." This is how you build program accountability.Â
  6. These kids played hard until the end! If you watched this team the last few years, you would have thought they'd have quit. They didn't today.
  7. No turnovers and only five penalties.


You may call that green kool aid. You may call it crap. I call it tangible evidence that shows our program is moving in the right direction. Sadly the first four wins of the season and a near win against an overrated and mediocre Wisconsin team, proved to be expectations that were set a little too high. I said (look in the archives) that if this team got to a bowl that it would be a good coaching job. I stand by that. This team needs horses, but they certainly aren’t the same old rented mules.Â


Now lets move on to the game story.


The Spartans lost today to a better football team. That hurts, but it was the truth. For the third game in a row you can question coaching decisions. The Spartans ran with ease on the Wildcats all afternoon. So with the game tied, the Spartans had 2:58 left in the game and the ball on their own 19. MSU gave the ball to their best player (Devin Thomas) and he ran for 5 yards. Good play and it showed that MSU was on the right track. Everyone in the stadium knew that MSU would drive and get a TD or a FG while eliminating the clock and NWU’s chance of scoring and tying the game. Well everyone in the stadium knew it except for the MSU staff. They went to the air the next four plays and had to punt the ball away.


NWU came down and missed the game winning field goal and we went to over time. After NWU scored a TD, MSU had the ball with a first and ten at the NWU 25 and they threw four incomplete passes. The last SEVEN plays they never gave the ball to their best two players (Ringer 239 APY, Thomas 266 APY) on the ground when they had already accumulated 287 yards on the ground and Ringer had only 12 carries, Thomas 6!


That is simply inexcusable. Dantonio told us last week that perhaps MSU had “out thought” themselves and clearly they did here. Sure the offense put up 41, but when it was clear that the D was unable to stop them, they didn’t go with what was succeeding. Frankly that was poor coaching!


Dantonio said this after the game, “We could sit around and question all kinds of things for what we’re doing defensively and offensively, but the bottom line is that if you score 41 points, you should win a football game, and we did not.” Here was another telling comment, “…On defense you have to play better; obviously that’s an understatement.”


DC Pat Narduzzi: “The defensive game ball goes to Coach Treadwell for scoring 41 points. The defense throughout the game couldn’t really stop anybody and I take full responsibility for that.”


MLB Kaleb Thornhill: “We have to go back to basics. That’s the key to victory. Open-field tackles…we have to get off the field on third downs. We have a lot of improvements to make.


QB Brian Hoyer (On not running the ball the last seven plays) “I think we felt like we could take advantage of them, we had been pounding the ball all game. We believe in a balanced attack, so we thought we could get a shot in there and get a touchdown early, but is just didn’t work out.”


The point is that MSU shouldn’t have lost this game. I am not discrediting the Wildcats, but this is a fact. This team is better and this game was a huge chance to demonstrate it. They didn’t! They made critical mistakes by going for big Sportscenter hits rather than wrapping up for tackles, they looked tired at times and although NWU had a great game plan to keep the Spartans praised pass rush at bay they couldn’t get to the QB.


I am stopping every so often to read the email coming in and I can understand being disappointed but some of you need to take a break. We knew what we had when MD got here. We have reason to be disappointed but some of you are just over reacting and sounding foolish. The sky has not fallen. He has to fix a program and no one before our 4-0-start thought he would do it in one season. This program didn’t dissipate in one season and it won’t be fixed in one season.


Grades:


The special teams (kick return not included) are in desperate need of attention. D


The offense scored 41 but didn’t run the ball the last seven plays. That is not the offense’s fault that is coaching. B


Defense gave up 611 yards and 48 points. What do you think? I agree: F


Our coaches struggled. The defense lacks playmakers but the time management is not good and play calling when it counted has been horrific that last two weeks, potentially costing the Spartans two wins. The kids battled to the end; just another sign that they aren’t the Spartans of past. D


Coming this week: Why is Spartan Stadium not full? It certainly isn’t the fans fault!

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