Michigan State is on a three-game losing streak following a 31-14 loss to Brigham Young on Saturday at Spartan Stadium. This long of a losing streak is something that hasn’t happened to Michigan State since 2009.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio and his staff keep getting new questions without answers each week. The Spartans try again to get on the winning side of the ledger next week when Northwestern (2-3) visits Spartan Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on Homecoming.
Offense (2 stars)
Spartans quarterback Tyler O’Connor was replaced at the start of the fourth quarter by Damion Terry as Dantonio searched for any possible spark of life to give the offense. O’Connor hasn’t been awful in his play (well, OK, the Wisconsin game was pretty bad) but neither has he been great. O’Connor is gritty and doesn’t back down from a challenge but Terry gives the offense a different dynamic in that he moves quicker in the pocket. He led the offense to a touchdown but also threw an interception. Dantonio has yet to name a starter for Saturday’s Northwestern game.
Of more concern should be the offensive line. Kodi Kieler started at left tackle but had to leave because of injury. Even with Kieler in the game, the offensive line got beat consistently by its BYU opponents.
Defense (2 stars)
The defense is on the field way too long in games. It doesn’t get off the field when it has the opportunities and it costs them in the long run. BYU failed to convert its first two third-down attempts but then was good on 10 of its final 14 attempts. There were a lot of missed tackles, especially against BYU running back Jamaal Williams, who came into the game ranked No. 2 in the nation in rushing. Williams was contained for a while, gaining just 54 yards on his first 17 carries, but then he ripped off 109 yards and scored twice on his final 13 rushes.
Just as the offensive line was beaten consistently by BYU’s defensive line, the Spartans’ depleted defensive line was worn down and beaten up by BYU’s offensive line. Yes, Malik McDowell was missed in the first half but even his return in the second half from a targeting suspension wasn’t enough to overcome depth problems.
Special teams (2.5 stars)
The was nothing special about the special teams unit. They did a good job on kick coverage but once again the return game offered nothing to help win the field position battle. At least there were no penalties for leaping called this week.
Coaching (2 stars)
BYU outscored Michigan State 21-7 in the fourth quarter. The Spartans have now been outscored 56-21 in the fourth quarter this season. The team started well, getting a stop on downs defensively and a subsequent long touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead, but everything went downhill from there.
Wind and field conditions were a factor but after having success throwing the ball on the first possession the Spartans went away from that game plan. O’Connor attempted just one pass after completing 6 of 8 on the opening drive.
Kudos to Dantonio for making the quarterback switch, although he really had no choice in the matter. It will be interesting to see if that change becomes permanent and if it affects play-calling by offensive coordinator Dave Warner.
Overall (2 stars)
The Spartans didn’t come out sluggish but they played that way for most of the game. There was plenty of talk this week about attitude adjustments but it’s looking more and more like this team isn’t missing a good attitude but good enough players, or players with enough experience, to win at his level of competition.
Michigan State isn’t the only Power 5 team struggling right now; Iowa, Oregon, and Notre Dame all come to mind immediately. Michigan just could be caught in the circle of college football life, but right now the Spartans are losing at all facets of the game.
Kevin Goheen covers Michigan State for Landof10.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CincyGoGo