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42-37 loss to Penn State dims postseason hopes

November 26, 2001
Sophomore wide receiver Charles Rogers drops a pass from sophomore quarterback Jeff Smoker while Penn State cornerback Bryan Scott covers him in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 42-37 loss at Spartan Stadium. Rogers caught 8 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

On paper at least, not much has changed for MSU from a year ago.

The Spartans are 5-5 overall and are coming off an another loss to Penn State.

Sophomore quarterback Jeff Smoker is a little banged up, the stereotype that MSU is inconsistent still stands, and head coach Bobby Williams is yet again searching for answers to the team’s blunders.

But with one regular season game remaining, a rescheduled home game with Missouri on Saturday, there’s still slim hope for a postseason bowl game and a somewhat respectable finish.

“Now our season comes down to one game,” Williams said after the 42-37 loss to the Nittany Lions on Saturday.

“These guys know that we are a lot better football team than what we have seen out on the field lately.”

MSU dropped its third game in a row, after a first half that saw the offense score on its first five possessions under the leadership of Smoker.

“Our season has just been one big roller coaster,” said junior tailback T.J. Duckett, who finished with 127 yards rushing on 22 carries and a touchdown. ‘We’ll make plays, win some games, but then come right back and make costly mistakes. The injuries haven’t helped either. I can’t explain why we have played so bad, all I know is that we have to keep working.”

A dramatic one-game turnaround will be easier said than done for MSU unless it overcomes its characteristic bumbles, especially in the statistical categories of penalties and turnovers.

And there’ve been a number of blown tackles and missed assignments on the defensive side of the ball.

And the fact that at least 11 contributing players are hurt, including freshman defensive tackle Matthias Askew, who broke his left wrist Saturday, doesn’t make MSU’s postseason hopes look any better.

On the bright side, Smoker and sophomore receiver Charles Rogers had flashes of dominance against the Nittany Lions.

Smoker, who completed 24-of-36 passes on the day for 356 yards, threw two of his three touchdown passes in the first half - both to Rogers.

With his sprained left shoulder in a padded sling, Smoker showed that he was able to take the hard hits, especially the three sacks he endured on the day.

“I haven’t seen anything to believe that we would fall out there,” said Smoker, who is expected to get the start against Missouri. “We had another great week of practice and everyone had a good attitude going into this game. I guess we all just have to pick each other up and rally out there when we make mistakes.”

One of the most frustrated players for MSU must have been Rogers, who dominated in the first half catching three balls for 127 yards.

Smoker connected with Rogers on a 47-yard touchdown pass at the 5:33 of the second quarter to give MSU its largest lead, 31-14.

But after halftime Rogers, who finished with 191 yards receiving, saw shorter routes and less opportunities to make big plays.

“I can’t complain about anything, that’s not my job,” Rogers said. “But I felt like I could take them every time. There were times I was interfered out there too, but I can’t make any excuses, none of us can. We all have to make up for this loss next week.” MSU’s defense, which gave up a season-high 42 points, also can’t point any fingers, junior cornerback Broderick Nelson said.

“Penn State didn’t do anything too complicated or special to throw us off,” Nelson said. “They just found a way to make plays. We all have to hold ourselves accountable right now, there’s no time to get complacent.”

Eric Lacy can be reached at lacyeric@msu.edu.

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