A Familiar Ending
Mistakes plague MSU in crushing Senior Day defeat
As MSU fans filed out of Spartan Stadium for the final time this year, it was with the same, stale taste in their mouth.
The MSU football team (5-6 overall, 2-5 Big Ten) closed out its home season without a conference win at Spartan Stadium, falling to Northwestern (8-3, 4-3) 23-20 Saturday afternoon before an energetic crowd of 75,101 fans.
MSU’s five conference losses each have come by four points or less, with the most recent defeat bringing the Spartans’ home loss total to five, something head coach Mark Dantonio said he spoke to his team about immediately after the game.
“We’ve lost five games at Spartan Stadium this year; to me, that’s unheard of,” Dantonio said. “I’ve been here 12 years, and that’s never happened.”
MSU had two drives stall at Northwestern’s one-yard line without scoring points, missed a 37-yard field goal, saw a number of receivers drop passes and turned the ball over four times, including an interception returned for a touchdown on a pass that floated because junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell was hit as he released the football.
When Maxwell wasn’t under duress, he struggled to be consistently accurate throwing the football, finishing the game completing 47 percent of his passes.
Junior running back Le’Veon Bell led the way for the Spartans, rushing for 133 yards on 32 carries, but said the team’s inability to come away with points on two drives at Northwestern’s one-yard line was “huge” and “unacceptable.”
“There’s a lot of small stuff during the course of the game,” Bell said. “I don’t see why they’re not being made. When the opportunity’s there, we’re just not making it. I don’t know what it is, but things just haven’t been going our way this year.”
Winning the close game was a staple of MSU’s success the previous two seasons, as the program was 9-1 in games decided by 10 points or fewer during the program’s first back-to-back 11-win seasons in school history.
This season, the Spartans’ five conference losses have come by a combined 13 points.
“There were plenty of mistakes that happened (Saturday); that’s the reason we lost,” junior linebacker Denicos Allen said. “It has kind of been that way all year. It is just the little mistakes that cost us by just that much. We lose a lot of our games by less than four points. It’s frustrating.”
The loss has the Spartans looking to avoid another first under Dantonio: MSU’s first season without a bowl berth since he took over as head coach before the 2007 season.
MSU travels to take on Minnesota (6-5, 2-5) on Saturday (3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network) needing a victory to become bowl-eligible.
With one game left on the schedule, junior linebacker Max Bullough said it’s simple: The team must find a way to win.
“We’ve got to win; we’ve got to win,” Bullough said. “We have to make it to a bowl game. We have to get past it, like I’ve been saying. We have come back every week and played strong even if we lost the next game. There is never any quit, and there won’t be any next week.”