Friday, April 19, 2024

Offensive failure

Spartan offense gets sacked with first-half deficits

September 23, 2002
MSU quarterback Jeff Smoker gets sacked by Notre Dame defensive end Ryan Roberts for a loss of four yards in the second quarter of the MSU vs. Notre Dame football game at Spartan Stadium Saturday. The Spartans lost 21-17. —

For the second game in as many weeks the MSU football team faced a double-digit half-time deficit.

It has been a re-occurring theme this season. In the first halves of the last three games, MSU has tallied 10 combined points.

Saturday, the Spartans trailed Notre Dame 14-3 before eventually falling 21-17 at Spartan Stadium. Another sluggish start by the Spartans’ offense and a tough Notre Dame defense had MSU playing catch-up most of the game.

Head coach Bobby Williams said he expected more from the offense in the first half.

“I was really disappointed in the offense,” he said. “We just couldn‘t sustain anything.”

The Spartans’ first drive summed most of their first half drives.

After Notre Dame drove 10 plays and 80 yards in 4:12 for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, the Spartans responded with a three-and-out possession that netted four yards.

The Spartans managed only 92 yards on 28 plays in the first 30 minutes and had four three-and-out possessions.

Not even junior spilt end Charles Rogers, a Heisman hopeful who had a incredible fourth-quarter performance with four catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns, could dodge the slow start.

The Saginaw native had three catches for 64 yards in the first three quarters, but matched those catches with three drops.

Saturday’s defeat also marked the third straight game MSU’s rushing game failed to hit 100 yards.

MSU freshman tailback David Richard, who rushed for 70 yards on 15 carries, credited the Irish defense.

“Notre Dame, they have a great defense,” he said. “They have great linebackers, a good defensive line, that probably was part of the reason.”

The Notre Dame defense - especially the pass rush - also tripped up junior quarterback Jeff Smoker.

On the second drive of the game, Smoker overthrew a screen pass intended for senior tailback Dawan Moss. On some other passing plays, Smoker held on to the ball too long, helping the Irish sack him six times.

After two quarters, he was 4-of-12 passing for 53 yards - with zero touchdowns and one interception. Most of his passing yards came on a 40-yard completion to Rogers, which was underthrown.

Senior offensive tackle Ulish Booker said he doesn’t know exactly what the problem may be, but he knows the offense can do more in the first half.

“We just have to go out there and make it happen,” he said. “We can’t wait to the second half and keep trying to pull these victories out.

“We have to do what we know what we’re capable of doing.”

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