Saturday, September 26, 2020

COLUMN: Bye weeks gone, Bachie done, hope lost

November 7, 2019
Junior linebacker Joe Bachie (35) looks into the backfield during the game against Purdue on Oct. 27, 2018 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Boilermakers 23-13.
Junior linebacker Joe Bachie (35) looks into the backfield during the game against Purdue on Oct. 27, 2018 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Boilermakers 23-13. —
Photo by CJ Weiss | The State News

Joe Bachie — captain and senior linebacker, heart of the Spartan defense and now potentially out for the rest of his college football career due to a failed drug test.

“I will always be a Spartan,” Bachie said in a statement.

Michigan State has already taken too many hits due to the NCAA transfer portal, injuries and tough scheduling this season. But Bachie’s loss will be the most heart-breaking. The second-year captain and three-year starter leaves the nationally-revered defense with huge cleats to fill.

“Who fills that void as a team leader is important,” Head Coach Mark Dantonio said in a Nov. 5 press conference. “But we’ve got guys that have led in the past and are leaders within themselves, and they will pick up the slack.”

The Ohio native leads the team with 71 total tackles in eight games so far this season. He has accounted for 279 tackles since he’s been at MSU, while also being ranked the No. 4 linebacker in the nation by USA TODAY. Just add on “tested positive to a banned performance-enhancing drug” and there’s his college football career in print.

The first-team preseason All-American will try to appeal the Big Ten’s drug test, but until that happens, the Spartans will have to fend for themselves.

“This does not define (Bachie) as a player, and more importantly, as a man,” Dantonio said in a statement.

What does this mean for back-end of the season for MSU?

It’s obvious the Spartans have been inconsistent offensively, but their defense has helped them stay in most games. Bachie’s absence will be evident as MSU comes off this bye-week to play Illinois on Saturday.

Bachie accounts for 8.5 tackles for loss for 35 total yards lost this season. His 36 solo tackles in seven games alone will be missed. Bachie has had nine career games with double-digit tackles. In addition to four sacks this season, he makes plays when needed.

Bachie’s abscence from the field is something others will feel. MSU will lack not only his skill defensively, but also his experience on the field. There isn’t any player ready to take on Bachie’s role yet.

“Everybody’s got to pick it up,” Dantonio said. “Everybody’s got to play 1/11th better to make up for a guy that’s lost.”

Redshirt sophomore Noah Harvey was listed as backup for Bachie on last week’s depth-chart, but it’s more than just a position to fill. The Spartans are losing their backbone, a leader that teammates of all ages and experience turned to for guidance and reassurance. MSU is losing a captain and a role model.

“Noah has been practicing and has gotten game reps and has been in our nickle package in various places throughout the season,” Dantonio said. “So he’s a seasoned player a little bit. He’s an outstanding athlete. He can really run. He’s got some size to him. He’s explosive. He can jump, he’s a 35-inch vertical guy, 10-foot long jump guy.”

The Spartans are 4-4 this season and 2-3 in the Big Ten. The chance for a decent bowl game is diminishing simultaneously with the Spartan roster. But Dantonio stays hopeful.

“We’ve got other people coming here to play and we’ve got big games this month,” Dantonio said. “We have four games left to play. We are a 4-4 football team. We’ve got something to make of this season.”

The next four games might go along the lines of the last eight: lack of talent leads to lack of execution, which results in a loss. I predict the once-hopeful Spartans lose to Illinois, Michigan, sneak a win at Rutgers and end senior day without Bachie and without a win against Maryland.

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