Sunday, February 25, 2024

Team loses player, QB's streak over

MSU senior quaterback Jeff Smoker looks to pass during the game against Michigan on Saturday at Spartan Stadium. Smoker's last pass of the game was his first interception in Big Ten play. It snapped a streak of 22 quarters the senior had gone without throwing a pick —

As MSU head football coach John L. Smith described the season-ending injury to junior defensive tackle Greg Yeaster, he went through the motions as well from behind the podium at his Monday afternoon press conference.

"He was making a move, it was almost like he was stepping over to run down the line, and the turf gave way, and then it caught. So on film you see a big clump giving way, then it caught and it snapped him.

"He really didn't even get hit."

Yeaster, who left the Michigan game on a stretcher in the first half, had surgery on his left leg Sunday. Smith said he expects other players to see a significant jump in playing time and responsibility.

"Well, we've got to count on Ras (senior defensive tackle Kyle Rasmussen) more, we've got to count on (junior defensive tackle Kevin) Vickerson more than we did in the past," Smith said. "We just can't afford to lose any more guys."

Smith said he will remain positive about the situation.

"It was bad, I wouldn't want to say that at this point." Smith said, responding to whether Yeaster's career is over. "He's going to have to have some great recovery probably for him to play anymore."

Sophomore strong safety Eric Smith also left the U-M game after re-injuring his shoulder.

Coach Smith said losing him didn't change their defensive strategy in the secondary of "not leaving anyone on an island."

Down but not out

With the 27-20 loss to U-M on Saturday, the Spartans dropped in the Bowl Championship Series rankings to No. 20.

MSU was ranked No. 10 last week after its 44-38 road win against Minnesota. The Spartans have been ranked in the BCS Poll each week since its debut three weeks ago.

Special special teams

Though the Rugby World Cup is being battled out in Australia, MSU fans got a small taste of the foreign game similar to football. Junior kicker Dave Rayner, who assumed punting duties three weeks ago for the Spartans against Minnesota, kicked two-rugby style punts to U-M returner Steve Breaston.

Breaston, a sophomore wide receiver for the Wolverines, entered the game as the seventh leading punt returner in the nation, averaging 16 yards per return. Against the Spartans, Breaston averaged 2 yards on two returns, something that Smith smiled about.

"We felt that we couldn't give him a chance to get the ball in his hands," Smith said. "I thought both that and our directional kicking were good.

"That part of the special teams was good and I thought for the most part our return - I thought there may have been a little positive there."

Streaks snapped

Jeff Smoker's streak of no interceptions in conference play ended on the final play against U-M when junior linebacker Scott McClintock picked off his Hail Mary pass in the end zone as time expired.

Rayner's streak of 12 consecutive field goals made ended as he missed a 57-yarder at the end of the first half against the Wolverines.

Another big game

The Spartans' schedule isn't getting any easier. MSU plays at Ohio State (8-1, 4-1) at 12:30 Saturday on ABC. The No. 7 Buckeyes have the best rush and total defense in the Big Ten.

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