Monday, October 3, 2022

Penalties continue to haunt, hurt Spartans

September 20, 2010

Junior offensive guard Joel Foreman grabs at the facemask of Notre Dame nose guard Ian Williams in an attempt to block for MSU on Saturday at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans had 11 penalties for 79 yards in their 34-31 overtime victory over Notre Dame.

Photo by Matt Radick | The State News

The No. 25 MSU football team maintained discipline late in Saturday’s 34-31 overtime win against Notre Dame, but for most of the game, that discipline wasn’t there.

The Spartans were flagged 11 times for 79 yards, most of which were offsides or holding infractions. The penalties hampered the Spartans by allowing three Notre Dame first downs and will hurt the Spartans’ chances moving forward if they continue.

“The thing that’s frustrating is that some of them were unforced penalties,” MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said after Saturday’s game. “We have to keep preaching that and talking about that, but it’s got to come with execution.”

Dantonio praised his team’s discipline in never quitting, but said he was disappointed with some of the errors. Among the penalties was a first quarter personal foul penalty that gave the Fighting Irish the ball half the distance to the goal and set up Notre Dame’s first touchdown pass. But other than that, most of the other penalties were for pass interference, holding, illegal substitution and illegal procedure.

The Irish were flagged for seven penalties that added up to 70 yards, which helped the Spartans overcome their own penalties. After being flagged 11 times for 69 yards in their opener against Western Michigan, the Spartans cut back to four penalties in the second week against Florida Atlantic and appeared to be headed in the right direction.

Saturday’s 11 errors are a setback for a team that was flagged the most of any Big Ten team last year. Still, they can’t be thought of as a surprise with MSU’s loud student section and night atmosphere, both of which made it
difficult to communicate at Spartan Stadium.

“I can’t say enough about our student section, our fans who support us,” junior quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “They did a tremendous job (Saturday).”

Special unit

While the fake field goal was all the talk following the game, the play represented a good effort from the entire special teams units Saturday.

Senior punter Aaron Bates averaged 45.6 yards per punt and was his usual steady self, hitting a 62-yard punt. And although junior receiver Keshawn Martin averaged only 17.8 yards per kick return Saturday, he nearly broke into the open field several times and showed flashes of his playmaking ability.

Whether it was Martin’s punt returns or sophomore kicker Dan Conroy’s 3-for-3 performance
on field goals against FAU or Bates’ punting, MSU’s special teams has been a strength of the team so far this season.

“I believe we have a great special teams,” Martin said. “The kick return we didn’t have such a good game (Saturday), but plays come. I’m not worried about it.”

Players of the Week

Bates and freshman running back Le’Veon Bell were named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week and Big Ten Freshman of the Week, respectively, the conference announced Monday.

Bates threw a touchdown pass to senior tight end Charlie Gantt that helped MSU convert its game-winning fake field
goal in Saturday’s overtime win, while Bell rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown.

Last week, sophomore kicker Dan Conroy was the conference’s Special Teams Co-Player of the Week after going 3-for-3 on field goals against Florida Atlantic.

Bell also was named Co-Freshman of the Week after MSU’s Sept. 4 season-opening victory against Western Michigan, in which he rushed for 141 yards on 10 carries, and followed it up Saturday with 132 all-purpose yards and 17 carries.

This season, Bell is averaging 8.2 yards per carry.

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