MSU vs. Northwestern: Week 7, 2005

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Back in to the comfy confines of the high cathedral of the Spartan Nation: Spartan Stadium is where MSU found themselves attempting to recover from a terrible 2 game losing streak.

The Spartans favored by 12, but reeling from two critical losses that could be hung on the backs of terrible coaching not play. Needing desperately to right the ship, and focus on a Big Ten title by winning out. The Spartans, of course, led by all-world QB and newest darling of ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr., had to set the season that had so many high expectations back on course.

The Wildcats got little pre-season respect led by one of the best coaches in the country, Randy Walker. Walker consistently does more with less inside the rigid academic expectations of a school that has Ivy League standards. Walker sees those constraints as opportunities and thrives, regardless, in them.

MSU got the ball to start the game and Stanton and his gang wasted no time welcoming the Cats to the friendly confines of our beloved cathedral. In just 3 plays, accented by a 53-yard pass to Brown and an 18-yard TD to Reed, the Spartans took the 1st drive 75 yards in for a 1:01 drive. The PAT was good and MSU was ahead 7-0 with 13:54 left in the 1st quarter.

NWU is no rollover, however, led by a great QB in Brett Basanez. The Wildcats 1st possession saw them make some progress only to be slowed by two lack of discipline penalties. That is uncharacteristic for a Randy Walker team so we can’t expect that to happen much. On the last play of the drive, showing his toughness, Basanez was drilled by Bazemore while he was throwing the ball, but ran off of the field, showing MSU this was going to be a dogfight.

MSU got the ball at their own 39 to start the 2nd drive of the game. MSU marched right down the field but John Goss missed a field goal. The ball went back to the highly respected and potent NWU offense at the 31. With 10:26 left in the 1st quarter it was still 7-0 MSU.

Basanez came back on the field and wasted no time attempting to seize the opportunity of a failed MSU score. He took his Cats down to the MSU 3, but a fumble by the Cats gave MSU the ball back at the Spartan 7.

Stantonled his Spartans nowhere on probably the worst drive of the season. A 3 and out, and Fields followed it with a terrible punt, so back on the field came the mighty Basanez and his under respected NWU offense at the MSU 40.

Basanez moved the Cats with ease, again, against a poor MSU defense, and they found themselves in the end zone after a nice 4-yard Basanez TD run. The PAT was good, so after the 40-yard, 6 play drive it was MSU and NWU tied at 7. With 6:09 left in the 1st quarter.

MSU began the drive and marched deep into NWU territory before Drew Stanton continued his struggle and had a bad pass intercepted. Stanton had struggled up to this point not playing like his usual self. The drive had lasted 16 plays and lasted over 6 minutes before the interception. The 1st quarter ended tied at 7 with NWU at their own 39. MSU had two drives that were stymied by errors, a missed FG, and an interception in the end zone. Stanton was not himself in the first quarter going 5/12 for 103 yards and a crucial interception.

The 2nd quarter had Basanez and his Cats at their 39 and driving. Sutton ended the drive with 13:18 left in the 2nd quarter with a TD plunge. The PAT was good, and the Cats had the lead 14-7 over MSU.

The Spartans in definite need of something to pick them up came back on the field obviously sluggish. Stanton, who up to this point had been uncharacteristically inconsistent, came out looking to get our Spartans going. After a bad kick, the Spartans started at their own 42. Once again the Spartans marched deep into the Cats’ territory but the Cats recovered a Stanton fumble and returned it 86 yards for a TD. The PAT was good and with 10:08 to go in the 2nd quarter it was MSU 7 NWU 21.

MSU again marched down the field deep into NWU territory, but Stanton missed a wide-open Kellen Davis for a TD and then threw an interception at the 4. Basanez brought his Cats out smelling blood. He tried to move the ball, but the surprising MSU defense held them and gave the ball back to Drew and the gang at the MSU 30.

You have to wonder if the struggle that Drew is having is somehow related to the fact that he is forcing it because he knows that he needs TD’s. He knows the kicking game can’t kick field goals. Once again Drew was able to drive the Spartans deep, this time down to the cat 16. MSU had Teague stopped behind the line and a couple of missed and dropped passes bringing up a 4th and 18 at the Cat 20. Much to the dismay of the Spartan faithful, Goss came on to attempt yet another field goal. The 37-yarder was once again missed and he left the field to a chorus of boos.

The Cats had the ball at the MSU 20 with 43 seconds remaining in the half. NWU tried to move the ball, but again the MSU defense (assisted by a NWU penalty) held the cats. At the end of the 1st half the score was MSU 7 and NWU 21.

The Cats marched down the field on their 1st possession of the 2nd half for the TD. The drive lasted 65 yards over 7 plays and took 2:41 off the clock. Sensational QB Basanez certainly led NWU, but they also had a 12th man, the MSU coaching staff. The MSU staff decided it was o.k. to let a QB with Basanez’s ability be able to stand all day with no pressure and choose a receiver. Pathetic!

MSU began their 1st 2nd half drive from their own 25. The moved to their own 47 where it stalled. Taking a play from the Detroit Lions, on a 3rd and 9, they threw to a covered receiver for 7. The Spartans punted and the Cats had the ball back again at their own 19.

The Cats moved with ease down the field for an 81-yard TD march. With the PAT being good, the score was NWU 35 and MSU 7. MSU got the ball and did absolute nothing. It was a complete exercise in futility. Fields had a 61-yard punt and the Cats came back again at their own 20. Once again, down the field they came and punched it in again for the TD. The PAT was good and the score was 42-7 NWU, with 2:06 left in the 4th.

I will stop with the hurtful and pathetic play by play for more of a commentary. Sadly, now we have to ask ourselves: Is this team better off today than when John L. Smith came in? The answer is …yes. Are we far better? No. I realize that it is frustrating, but it is the truth. All of the progress, all of the green kool-aid that we have drank, and three years into the John L. Smith experiment we are ahead barely. The performance of this football team today was atrocious. You saw a group of young men who quit on a coaching staff that cost them the last two games. You saw kids who were frustrated that the coach will call them out publicly, yet not call out his coaches by name that fail miserably. You see the constant complaining about facilities as the reason we cannot recruit yet other places get kids and win with less. We hear that we need more time, well when do the fans speak up? I am tired of the litany of excuses and reasons for failure. I want to hear the reasons for, and the fruit of victory. I am told that I view MSU too highly; that it is impossible for us to return to the level of national champion. I have great respect for some of the people who tell me that, but I don’t buy it. What our biggest problem is is that we have a lack of vision and conviction.

Drew Stanton did not cost us this game today. He has played out his guts. It is Drew’s performance this season that should tell all of us that we could return to glory. He is a great talent that came to MSU with a love and admiration for the glorious Spartan Nation. Born into it, bred for it, he is the epitome of what is the Spartan Nation. I will never rest. I will never concede that we are a world-class university that can and will return to glory one day. John L. has 4 games left to show us if he is the one to return us to it. I hope he is, but I am not willing to waste any time dragging out the process of finding out. We need, and most all the fans deserve, to see some demonstration of it. We don’t get discounts for failure, but are continually asked to pay for a national championship product. The time is right now for MSU fans to hold the coaching staff, as well as the administration, accountable for success. If they choose not to, then send a refund check to the season ticket holders, the suite holders, the donors and anyone who has ever bought a hat or a shirt.

You can call me a lot of things, but one is for sure. I love MSU. I am tired of people who accept mediocrity. If a Motor City Bowl against a MAC team is a successful season, and John L. says it is, “A successful season to me is winning more than losing,” then let’s pay him like a MAC coach, let’s charge MAC prices, and leave the Big Ten. If it is not, then we need to raise the bar. I am not saying that John L. needs to be fired, I am saying that he needs to take the last 4 games and show us why he shouldn’t.

Grades:

Offense: D collected 480 yards but failed to produce red zone points at an acceptable rate.

Defense: F sloppy

Special Teams: F horrendous

Coaching: F failed the team…pathetic