EAST LANSING, Mich. — A week ago against Indiana, Michigan State’s final drive in regulation went 13 plays long for 75 yards and ended in a touchdown when the Spartans could afford nothing less. The first drive against Brigham Young Saturday again produced seven points after 15 plays and 72 yards.
Those drives have been the exceptions rather than the rule for the Spartans. That’s a big reason why they are 2-3 this season and owners of a three-game losing streak for the first time since 2009 after a 31-14 loss to BYU. Michigan State has been outscored 85-41 during the losing streak, including 61-20 in two home games.
Juggernaut might not be a term ever associated with Michigan State’s offense during the Mark Dantonio era but this year’s inconsistencies have led to a genuine quarterback controversy. Fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor won the job in preseason camp but he was yanked Saturday at the start of the fourth quarter in favor of junior Damion Terry.
The hope was that Terry could provide a spark. He threw an interception on his first possession before leading the offense on a second touchdown drive after BYU had a 24-7 lead.
Whoever ends up running the show has to get more consistent production from everyone associated with the offense.
“It’s frustrating because we came out and did everything perfect that first drive,” O’Connor said. “It felt great. Obviously they did a great job of pinning us deep in our own territory, but we’ve got to get out in those opportunities and make the best of them.”
The Michigan State has struggled to find any consistency this season. Here’s a look at what the Spartans have done offensively each game this season.
|Opponent||Rushing yards||Passing yards||Total yards||Turnovers||Points|
Yes, Michigan State had drives start at its own 3- and 5-yard lines in the first half but the six possessions in between the two touchdowns produced just 52 yards on 24 plays. That’s four plays per drive.
Michigan State finished the game with 206 yards of offense. It was the fewest yards produced by Michigan State since gaining just 187 yards in a 24-3 loss at Nebraska on Oct. 29, 2011. The two scoring drives for Michigan State produced 147 yards. The other seven drives resulted in 59 yards.
“I think if you go back and dissect it over the last three weeks it is truly a breakdown here, a breakdown there. Myself included,” Michigan State offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. “It’s either a bad decision by the quarterback, a missed block or protection by the offensive line or a missed block in the run game, a dropped pass, a missed read or a bad call by me. It is total team effort that’s not getting it done.”
Dantonio was unequivocal when asked if he would take over play-calling duties from Warner.
“No, I am not going to do that,” Dantonio said. “Absolutely not. That will not happen.”
Warner opened the game by calling four consecutive pass plays. Eight of the first 10 play-calls were passes, six of which were completed by O’Connor – the two incompletions were a dropped ball by senior Monty Madaris and when freshman Donnie Corley ran his pattern out of bounds nullifying a catch – but then field position and a heavy wind factor shut off the passing attack. Michigan State never regained the offensive balance and rhythm it had on the opening drive.
“We all evaluate ourselves and I’m sure coach Warner is doing the same thing,” O’Connor said. “No one is pointing the finger. Whatever is called we have to execute.”
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach John McKay was once asked about his team’s execution. He said he was all for it. The Spartans aren’t to that point yet but it is certainly frustrating to them and fans.
“It’s probably mental and confidence,” junior running back Gerald Holmes said. “Coming off two losses is not easy. We haven’t done that in years. It goes without saying that you need to be a play-making athlete and capitalize. A handful of them didn’t do that so we’ve got next week to look forward to.
“It’s already in the past. We need to lock in. We need to get together as an offense. We’re not doing it right now and we need to.”
Kevin Goheen covers Michigan State for Landof10.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CincyGoGo