Sunday, April 21, 2024

Smith: Team must put loss behind them and move on

Head coach John L. Smith watches a play in anticipation during the final minutes of the game against Michigan on Saturday in Ann Arbor. MSU lost to U-M in triple overtime. 45-37. —

After MSU lost to Michigan 45-37 in triple overtime Saturday, head coach John L. Smith said there was no way to console his broken team. Two days after the defeat, he recognized MSU's missed opportunity and said it is time to move ahead.

"It's bitter the way we lost that, plus, it's extra bitter because it is Michigan, without a doubt," he said at the weekly football press conference on Monday.

MSU (4-4 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) had a 17-point fourth-quarter lead before the Wolverines stormed back, forced overtime and eventually won.

"There were three-and-a-half quarters where you dominated. We have to find a way at the end, too," Smith said. "So, build on it, I guess, is all we can do.

"We have to put it behind us and we have to move on. We preach about the rearview mirror and had you won, you still have to tear it off; you lose, you have to tear it off. You have to look ahead. That's all we can do. So doggone it, pull together and let's go get a win."

MSU hosts Ohio State (5-3, 2-3) at noon Saturday.

Reflecting on the game, there were numerous turning points and mistakes the Spartans committed that contributed to the loss.

But Smith pinpointed the onside kick U-M recovered with 6:27 remaining in regulation as the one play that could have cost his team the game.

"The main thing we could have done differently is field the onside kick and then we win the ball game," Smith said.

"We've been making so many strides, so much progress and things have been really, really good. We have to be upbeat and go to the field and get that done again this week."

Hayes' recovery

U-M receiver Braylon Edwards scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime, spear-heading the Wolverines' comeback. MSU junior cornerback Jaren Hayes, who played running back last season, was covering Edwards on the first two touchdowns and was involved in the third, which ended up as the game-winner.

Smith realized some onlookers might criticize Hayes' performance, but he quickly diffused that possibility and said Hayes was in the right position in every case.

"Jaren's going to be in the dumps because, again, everybody's going to point a finger at Jaren and that's one thing he has to realize," Smith said. "Playing corner, you're out there all by yourself. It's you, and that receiver and 100,000 people looking at you."

Ultimately, though, Edwards' game-winning touchdown was an example of the playmaking ability MSU lacked at the end of the game.

"Being the older guy, a veteran and the leader and the person people look to, I had to make the play," Edwards said after the game. "I said to myself that I had to make the play."

Spotty officiating

Smith disagreed with one MSU penalty in overtime and was forced to burn a timeout early in the game to fix an official's mistake.

Senior tight end Eric Knott was called for offensive pass interference on the Spartans' final possession. The 15-yard penalty created a hurdle MSU could not overcome. They came up empty on the drive and lost the game.

"I don't know how you can call interference (from) the opposite side of the field of where the ball is thrown on a play where your kid is being double covered," Smith said.

In the first quarter, senior linebacker Marshall Campbell blocked the Wolverines' punt. But an official incorrectly called a roughing the kicker penalty which maintained U-M's possession.

Smith knew it was blocked, nullifying the penalty, and had to call timeout so he could convince the officials to review the play. The play was reviewed and overturned and MSU got the ball as a result.

"I don't think they would have reviewed it had I not called a the timeout," Smith said. "Really it should not have been challenged. A 100-and-whatever thousand people saw the thing get blocked and you're there standing 10 feet from it. "You can't tell that it was blocked? Why should it have to be challenged?"

Smith said he favors instant replay, which the Big Ten is using for the first time this season.

"We need to get it right. Here's the negative of it, I think, is they're relying on it to get it right, instead of them getting it right to begin with," he said.

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