Saturday, December 4, 2021

Defense couldnt save Spartans

October 16, 2000
Junior defensive end Nick Myers (75) sacks Wisconsin sophomore quarterback Brooks Bollinger (5) during the game in Spartan Stadium on Saturday. Wisconsin beat MSU 17-10. —

For 59:31 of the game, MSU defenders dominated Wisconsin’s offense.

Speedy Badger running back Michael Bennett entered Spartan Stadium as the nation’s second leading rusher, and left with only 59 yards on 23 carries and no touchdowns.

Through the air, the Badgers only completed seven passes.

This should have been enough for a Spartan victory, but for the third consecutive week MSU came up short.

When Wisconsin wide receiver Lee Evans hauled in a 45-yard bomb from backup quarterback Jim Sorgi with 29 seconds remaining in the game, the great tackles and stellar coverage were all forgotten in the haze of a 17-10 Homecoming defeat.

The loss dropped MSU’s record to 3-3 overall, 0-3 Big Ten.

Spartan players and coaches admitted they were caught off guard by the deep throw to Evans.

“We had all the confidence in the world over there on defense,” said defensive tackle Jace Sayler, who registered five tackles, including two for losses. “I thought we crushed them - we were doing everything we wanted against them. Unfortunately, they just got lucky at the end.”

MSU head coach Bobby Williams didn’t know what to make of his third tough loss, which put the Spartans in an 0-3 hole in conference play.

“I was actually very shocked on the play call,” Williams said of the game-winning heave. “I was not expecting that play.”

While MSU’s defense kept the team in the game, its offense continued to sputter. For the second straight week, the Spartans outgained their opponent by a large margin - 366 to 197 in total yardage - yet failed to put enough points on the scoreboard.

In the Spartans’ last two games against Iowa and Wisconsin, they outgained the two teams in yardage 832 to 428. The result: two defeats.

MSU’s last points Saturday came at 0:11 of the first quarter via a 43-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Ryan Van Dyke to junior wide receiver Herb Haygood, giving the Spartans a 10-0 lead.

Haygood, who also dropped a would-be touchdown pass in the end zone in the second quarter, fessed up to the lack of offensive production.

“I’ve been saying that from day one - our offense has to put more points on the board,” Haygood said. “We have to stop relying on our defense. Last year, we relied on our defense, and that’s one of the things we’re trying to change.”

Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez admitted it wasn’t a pretty win, but he was a bit startled by MSU’s play calling.

“I was surprised they thought that they could wear us out,” Alvarez said. “You’ll have to check with Bobby (Williams) about the reasoning.”

The Spartans knocked Badger quarterback Brooks Bollinger out of the game in the first half with a concussion, but while playing he was mostly ineffective. Bollinger was 0-of-6 passing, with 40 yards rushing.

In holding Bennett to 59 yards, MSU’s defense did something that hadn’t been accomplished all year. Going into Saturday, Bennett ran for more than 100 yards in each of Wisconsin’s first six games.

Despite the effort, MSU’s defense realized it had to do more.

After the game, junior defensive tackle Josh Shaw was searching for words to explain the tough loss.

“I don’t understand it, we’ve been having good weeks of practice,” Shaw said. “I don’t know, we just keep falling short.”

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