Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Plagued by the flag

Penalties bog down Spartan offensive attack

October 21, 2002
Freshman tailback David Richard is tripped by Minnesota linebacker Bradley Vance (53) Saturday at Spartan Stadium. Minnesota beat MSU 28-7, giving State a 3-4 overall record. —

For the second straight week, the MSU football team had a successful start, but sputtered the rest of the game. Some of the problem can be traced to untimely penalties.

The Spartans (3-4 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) lost 28-7 to Minnesota on Saturday at Spartan Stadium, getting almost no help from the offense. The Spartans ranked eighth in the Big Ten with 395 yards per game, but only managed 280 yards against the Golden Gophers (7-1, 3-1).

“Something would just go wrong,” head coach Bobby Williams said. “And most of the penalties were on the offense. You can’t have the undisciplined penalties. And we’re not supposed to have those things, so we just have to keep working at them.

“We don’t have any continuity, any consistency, any balance. We’re a very inconsistent offense right now. As a result, it makes us a very inconsistent football team.”

After MSU scored on its first drive, aided by a 15-yard defensive pass interference penalty, it couldn’t muster any points.

On the Spartans second drive of the game, they had a chance to add to their 7-0 lead and build more momentum.

On the first three plays of the possession, the Spartans picked up two first downs and were almost in Gopher territory - at the MSU 48-yard line. But on the next play, MSU committed a 10-yard holding penalty, which put them at first-and-20.

Three plays later, they were forced to punt.

“Penalties will kill you,” junior quarterback Jeff Smoker said. “You can’t get a long, consistent drive when you commit penalties, especially on big plays, and we did that today.”

While trailing 10-7 in the second quarter, penalties again plagued the Spartan offense.

A 15-yard clipping penalty on a screen play nullified a 5-yard gain, which would have given the Spartans a manageable third-and-3 situation. Instead the Spartans were faced with second-and-18 yards to go.

A defensive pass interference penalty on the next play helped the Spartans out of a tough situation, but they buried themselves again.

On the following play, junior wide receiver Charles Rogers gained 23 yards on a reverse that seemed to move the Spartans into Minnesota territory. But the play was called back because of holding and the Spartans were faced with first-and-20 at their own 24-yard line.

“Those penalties were just shooting us in the foot,” Rogers said. “Every time we had something going we would have a penalty, so that would slow down our momentum.”

Two plays later senior tailback Dawan Moss fumbled an attempted reverse ending the drive.

The final MSU penalty came in the fourth quarter with the Spartans trailing 28-7. Although the game was almost decided at that point, the penalty summed up the Spartans day.

On first-and-10 from the 25-yard line, junior quarterback Jeff Smoker completed a 30-yard pass to sophomore tight end Jason Randall, which was negated by another holding penalty putting the Spartans in another first-and-long situation.

It was the fifth penalty committed by the Spartan offense. The team had six penalties overall, totaling 55 yards.

“We can’t have those mistakes,” junior center Brian Ottney said. “We have to execute the plays the way they are supposed to be executed without mistakes.

“People just have to do what they’re supposed to be doing and concentrate and play with their head.”

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