Thursday, May 23, 2024

Not again! Tough loss feels too familiar

Columbus, Ohio — The expression on Kyle Brown's face said it all. He held his helmet in one hand, the other hand on his hip, sweat dripping down his face.

The crowd at Ohio Stadium, which was in hibernation throughout the game, was absolutely electrified — so much so that I turned to a reporter next to me, and I couldn't hear what she was saying.

Brown stared at the crowd with a blank look on his face. Game over.

In a street fight where everything is on the line, one side goes down worn and battered, unable to overcome the unrelenting abuse. The other side, equally beaten, can fight on forever, the pains becoming numb because the taste of victory is so much sweeter.

Ohio State linebacker Anthony Schlegel said that's how Saturday's game felt. The Buckeyes defensive line continually penetrated the line of scrimmage every time MSU lined up.

All on Stanton

MSU junior quarterback Drew Stanton went down 12 times during the game, but that doesn't include the number of tackles he endured as he rushed. Every time he went down, it looked it took him a second longer to get up.

This was how bad it was: Stanton got sacked twice in one drive four different times.

But he still finished with a stellar day — completing 26 of 36 passes for 340 yards and one touchdown. The 340 yards through the air were the most the Buckeyes have given up this season.

"Drew Stanton's one of those guys; you can tell he studies the game, has a good concept," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said after the game. "What I like best about him is when his guys are covered, he does a great job keeping the play alive. I'm sure he's sore, but he's a good one."

During the time Tressel was speaking, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith continually nodded in agreement two seats over. On the other end of the table, tailback Antonio Pittman and Santonio Holmes gave each other one of those secret handshakes, without showing too much emotion. They had nothing to worry about. They still kept that glimmer of hope for the Big Ten title alive.

All Ohio State needed to do was keep attacking Stanton. If he goes down, the team does as well. The final play of MSU's 35-24 loss read: clock 00:03, Stanton, Drew sacked for loss of 1 yard to the OSU24 (Patterson, D).

How fitting.

Familiar ending

The Spartans were obviously frustrated. Who wouldn't be? A coaching gaffe led to one of the most crucial mistakes I've ever seen on the field in three years at MSU.

The scene looked like a chicken with its head cut off — players running on the field, players scrambling off the field, head coach John L. Smith screaming in disgust in the sidelines and to the national media as he headed to the locker room during halftime.

Had the Spartans somehow won this game, the miscommunication wouldn't be as much of a deal it is as it is now.

Be certain about this, the Spartans controlled the game. The difference in time of possession is astounding. MSU had the ball for close to 50 minutes. It connected on third-down conversions 31 percent of the time (5-of-16), while Ohio State only had six opportunities.

But because of this and because of that, it's the same old Spartans story. After the Spartans lost a heartbreaker to Michigan last season, they said they'd learned for the Ohio State game, but ended up losing that one too.

This season, the team didn't want to repeat what happened last year — for both U-M (again) and Ohio State (again) to beat them in consecutive weeks. Same old story.

The Spartans have shown they can stay in a game with the best of them, but they just can't come through in the clutch.

But hopefully — eventually — one of these games, they'll be on the winning end of a street fight.

The bruises will heal but the pain of going down — well, that's another story.

Esther Gim is the State News deputy sports editor. Reach her at


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