EAST LANSING, Mich. — Tyler O’Connor wasn’t sure he didn’t see what he thought he didn’t see.
“Did they really just not have an A-gap player there?” O’Connor thought to himself as he turned to hand off the football to Gerald Holmes. “We talked about it running off the field. Did they not have an A-gap player there at all?”
They were talking about it because Michigan did not have a defensive lineman lined up across from Michigan State C Benny McGowan or in the gaps between McGowan and OGs Tyler Higby and Brian Allen. They were talking about it because on a fourth down from the Michigan 38-yard line and needing 1 yard to keep its drive going in the early stages of the second quarter on Saturday, Michigan State didn’t get that yard. Holmes was stopped from behind by Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers.
When things go wrong, you wonder what you could’ve done differently. O’Connor wondered that on more than one occasion after he and the Spartans lost their sixth game in a row, 32-23. This play was the first of three failed fourth-down attempts for Michigan State, all three of which came inside Michigan territory. O’Connor could have possibly audibled out of the run play to Holmes and called instead for a quarterback sneak, but he didn’t.
When things go wrong, you always question what you could have done differently.
“We asked the guys up top. They were like, ‘It’s a full yard, yard and a half,’ so it’s still not a gimme,” O’Connor said. “We feel we should be able to get a yard running the play that we had.
“In my eyes, I’m mad because we didn’t check it because we didn’t get the first down. I do have that freedom and I think the coaches would have been OK with it.”
Both teams had six trips inside the red zone. Michigan scored on all six of its possessions — three field goals and three touchdowns. Michigan State scored on half of its chances, getting three touchdowns. Those three field goals proved to be the final margin of victory for Michigan.
“Just too many missed opportunities when you get down to it,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “Fourth-and-1, we have to get 1 yard. I don’t care what they draw up or what we draw up. You have to be able to get 1 yard.”
Kevin Goheen covers Michigan State for Landof10.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CincyGoGo