Sunday, April 21, 2024

Flagged down

Penalties a 'deciding factor' in loss

MSU head coach John L. Smith argues with an official Saturday in Honolulu, Hawaii. Smith was upset with many calls made during the game, including this call on a reception that was ruled out of bounds. —

Honolulu - MSU had two touchdowns called back because of penalties against Hawaii in a loss on Saturday, a fact that did not sit well with coaches or players.

Both would-be touchdowns were by senior running back DeAndra Cobb, a 75-yard rush in the second quarter and a 98-yard kickoff return in the fourth.

It's uncertain if either would have reversed MSU's 41-38 loss at Aloha Stadium.

Head coach John L. Smith considered the possibility, though.

"Any time you have that many called back, that's definitely going to decide the game," he said. "I can't talk about it much, other than it's a deciding factor."

Cobb's kickoff return, called back in the fourth quarter, especially irked Smith. The touchdown would have given the lead back to MSU, which had just fallen behind, 34-31, for the first time in the game with 9:22 remaining.

"I can't understand, on the other side of the field and (Cobb's) down to the 20-yard line, and then you see the official 10, 15, 20 yards behind the play drop the flag," Smith said. "You tell me if there was any taking advantage."

Sophomore defensive back Kiel Beltinck was the guilty party, called for holding which nullified Cobb's score. The Spartans (5-7 overall, 4-4 Big Ten) never regained the lead that Cobb's return would have provided and lost their second straight game.

Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang's 1-yard touchdown rush gave the Warriors their 34-31 lead. But Hawaii was called offside on the ensuing kickoff, forcing place-kicker Justin Ayat to kick off from the 30-yard line instead of the 35.

Cobb knew the penalty raised the chances Ayat's kick wouldn't make it to the end zone, meaning he could probably return it.

"I kind of figured it was going to be a return ball and I wanted to give us a spark," he said.

Cobb caught the ball at the 2-yard line and took off, weaving through Hawaii's special teams unit. He broke free and made his way to end zone on the right side of the field.

The flag turned up on the other half of the field.

"I turned around and there was a yellow thing on the field," Cobb recalled. "I was hoping it was a piece of yellow newspaper."

Cobb was referring to all the debris littering the Aloha Stadium turf.

Cobb, a senior, finished his last game as a Spartan with a team-high 128 rushing yards on 16 carries. He also was credited with 111 kickoff return yards.

MSU failed on both occasions to score on the possessions resulting from Cobb's nullified touchdowns.

Cobb's 75-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was brought back because junior center Chris Morris was called for holding.

MSU had 16 penalties against Hawaii for 119 yards. Hawaii was penalized five times for 35 yards. Against Michigan on Oct. 30, the Spartans were called for 14 penalties for 123 yards in the triple-overtime loss.

Hawaii also had a touchdown called back because of a penalty. Running back Michael Brewster ran the ball in the end zone from 21 yards in the fourth quarter out, but a holding penalty brought the ball back to the 31-yard line.

The Warriors, unlike MSU, eventually scored a touchdown on the same possession anyway, despite the penalty.

The Spartans' defense also was hobbled by mistakes.

Sophomore defensive end Clifton Ryan was ejected in the second quarter after a physical altercation with Hawaii's Jeremy Inferrera, who also was tossed from the game.

Smith said he didn't see the incident.

"Clif said a guy punched him and he said, 'I didn't punch him back,'" Smith said. "You can't get into playing that game with them."

Ryan's pass rush abilities were missed; Chang often found receivers because MSU didn't apply any quarterback pressure.

"We couldn't afford to lose Clif," Smith said. "That really hurt us."

Ryan's fellow defensive lineman, senior defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, said the officiating had a definite impact.

"Oh, man, they took 21 points away from us," he said.

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