In a game vs. two-time defending NCAA champions Indiana (6-3) that could have swung either way, the MSU mens soccer team (4-3), found itself on the losing end of a controversial game.
After playing nearly two halves of scoreless soccer, MSU freshman forward Craig Hearn had his legs taken out by Indiana midfielder Josh Rife in front of the MSU bench at the 82:52 mark. Rife was handed a yellow card while the MSU bench disputed the call and was given a red card.
Indiana immediately capitalized on the momentum swing 52 seconds later when midfielder Ryan Mack put a shot past MSU senior goalkeeper T.J. Lieckfelt - who was solid all game, saving six shots.
MSU head coach Joe Baum said his team was in disarray after it did not get the call.
We were so stunned they didnt make a red-card call there, we were like, in disbelief, Baum said. We all thought that was a red card, everybody did, the Indiana bench did and the guy didnt have the guts to make the call.
Mack, a Michigan native who played high school soccer at Birmingham Seaholm, said it was a special win because he was playing in front of friends and family.
I think the ref was a little too easy to give cards, said Mack, who considered attending MSU. He gave cards for the weakest stuff. I think that (the tripping call) was a pretty stupid call on that play. I think that might have given us a little bit of an advantage.
MSUs play forced Indiana head coach Jerry Yeagley to address his team privately after the game.
We had a little meeting of the minds over here and we must play better. Were capable of playing better; this teams not playing to its potential, Yeagley said. Now Michigan State had something to do with it but a lot of it was our lack of performance.
A big contributor to the Spartans attack was senior forward Steve Williford, who gave MSU a huge shot in the arm despite being hampered by an ankle injury, missing an entire week of practice.
I mean it felt good to be back out there and all, but the bottom line was I didnt do my job today. I didnt finish the chances I had, said Williford, who missed on a goal-scoring opportunity late in the game.
Williford, who has missed the past two games, was critical of his performance.
I mean, I could have either been a scrub or a superstar. I guess I ended up a scrub today, he said. But Ill shake it off and be back when Im healthy again.
Baum said he feels the team can bounce back from its three-game slide, since it was able to compete with one of the best teams in the nation.
We just (have to) work hard and win our next game, Baum said. Its not like were getting blown away, were losing to defending national champions 1-0 on a real questionable call. You cant fault our effort, you cant fault our determination.