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Missed opportunities cost MSU's offense in loss to ASU

September 15, 2019
<p>Redshirt senior quarterback Brian Lewerke (14) scrambles during the game against Arizona State on Sept. 14, 2019 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans fell to the Sun Devils, 10-7.</p>

Redshirt senior quarterback Brian Lewerke (14) scrambles during the game against Arizona State on Sept. 14, 2019 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans fell to the Sun Devils, 10-7.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

On its third possession of the game, Michigan State had a first and 10 from the Arizona State 48-yard line. Brian Lewerke sat back in the pocket, waiting for a receiver to get open. It never happened.

So, Lewerke bought time and scrambled to extend the play. He threw downfield. Incomplete. There was a flag on the field, too. Holding.

Second and 10 turned into first and 20. Momentum killed. Drive killed. Punt. Repeat.

That was the story for No. 18 Michigan State in its 10-7 loss against the Sun Devils. The Spartans had all the opportunities in the world to put points up on the board. MSU's offense lived on ASU's side of the field in the first half, but went into halftime with nothing to show for it.

And ultimately, those missed opportunities played a major role in the Spartans' demise Saturday afternoon.

"Extremely disappointed — too many missed opportunities," Mark Dantonio said. "Missed opportunities in the first half and penalties pushed us back or something else pushed us back. We had some big plays in the game. We had over 400 yards of offense, but we don't have the production on that end of things. There is not enough production points, so it's tough to win a game."

In all five of MSU's first-half offensive possessions, the Spartans spent at least one play on ASU's side of the field. But, they consisted of two punts, a fumble and two missed field-goals.

"We just gotta be able to finish drives, that’s the main thing,” Lewerke said.

“I fumbled away one that would have probably been a touchdown. We get down there, get penalties and get pushed back out for third-and-longs, which made it difficult.” 

On most days, that simply won't cut it. For 52 minutes Saturday afternoon it didn't — until Elijah Collins gave MSU a 7-3 lead when he scored his first college touchdown from nine-yards out. MSU won't win many games scoring only seven points. Dantonio said it did its best to Saturday.

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That was before Eno Benjamin performed his best L.J. Scott impression, reaching the ball over the goal line to give ASU a 10-7 lead with 50 seconds left.

In the grand scheme of things, that touchdown shouldn't have mattered. Numbers-wise, MSU did enough to have a larger lead in Saturday's game.

“Looking at the stats, we won in about every category," Lewerke said. "It’s tough to not be able to put points on the board, and you can’t blame the defense. They did their job, held them to 10 points, 180 yards or something. It’s tough to see.” 

The Spartans out-gained ASU 404 yards to 216. They converted 23 first downs to the Sun Devils' 14. MSU ran for 113 yards compared to ASU 's 76. Lewerke threw for 291 yards compared to Jayden Daniels' 140. The Spartans even ran 22 more offensive plays.

So, yes, MSU dominated the stat sheet. But that didn't equate to dominating the scoreboard.

When asked how many points MSU's offense should have scored, Lewerke said that if the Spartans had finished drives, he felt that, realistically, the Spartans should have scored 30 points.

Thirty would have been more than enough to put the Sun Devils away before the fourth quarter even started. But, MSU had one more quarter to save itself.

One last opportunity to, at least, give itself a shot in overtime. But as time expired, Matt Coghlin's 47-yard game-tying field goal sailed left.

A storybook ending to what is turning out to be the story for MSU's offense.

"We had some different things happen like that where we didn't get points in the first half, where we had three opportunities across the 50 (yard line) I believe, or maybe even across the 40," Dantonio said. "We came away with zero points and that came back to get us."

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Injuries mount on O-Line

When the Spartans take on Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois next Saturday (12:00 p.m. kickoff, ABC), they may have to do with another new left tackle.

Right before halftime, Kevin Jarvis went down with what appeared to be a leg injury. Jarvis gingerly walked off the field and went straight into the tunnel following the play. However, he didn't return to the game and was not seen on the sideline in the second half. Tyler Higby went into the game over true freshman Devontae Dobbs.

When asked about it following the game, Dantonio declined to give an update on Jarvis's status.

Jarvis, a junior from Chicago, has started at left tackle in all three of MSU's games this season. He replaced senior Cole Chewins, who hasn't dressed this season due to a lingering back injury, and second-string A.J. Arcuri, who didn't dress against the Sun Devils.

MSU's offensive line also lost left tackle Luke Campbell for a brief period, after he went down clutching at his knee. Campbell — a junior from Lewis Center, Ohio — walked off the field and was replaced by Blake Bueter before returning later in the game.


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