A slow start on both offense and defense once again led to a one-sided loss for the Michigan State Football team. The Spartans were defeated 31-9 against Maryland Saturday afternoon.
In the Spartans last two games, they have been outscored 72-16 by their opponents. What has been even more concerning is that just three of those sixteen points have come in the first halves of those matchups.
Although the score line was harsh against Maryland, MSU seemed to improve their energy out of halftime and contain the Terrapin offense, which pleased acting head coach Harlon Barnett.
“I was encouraged by the defense in the second half, very encouraged,” Barnett said. “I kept telling them on the sidelines — that’s defense, that’s defense. They come off the sidelines, I say that’s defense right there, we’re playing defense. So that was encouraging.”
The inspiration for Barnett is helpful and rewarding, but it doesn’t pass as the mindset going forward, as this trend has come up repeatedly throughout the young season.
In Michigan State’s first two games against Central Michigan and Richmond, the offense started rather slow. MSU took only a 10-7 lead into halftime against the Chippewas, and were up 17-0 heading into the break against the Spiders. The Spartans then closed out their opponents behind a second half surge easily, scoring 49 points in the second halves of those games combined.
While the first half struggles were overshadowed in victories over teams with less credibility, the sloppiness won’t cut it against Big Ten conference opponents. With the schedule only getting harder as MSU travels to battle No. 24 Iowa next week, a tone needs to be set from the start in order to compete rather than having to dig out of a deficit hole.
“We got to be able to just get off the field on third down,” redshirt junior linebacker Cal Haladay said. “We had multiple opportunities early in the game to get off the field or hold them to a field goal, and it just didn’t happen. In the second half, there’s a couple, we started off forcing three and out and, just so, we just got to be able to get to that.”
On the offensive side of the ball, a big part of the first half struggles has been moving the ball downfield. In the last two games against Washington and Maryland, both redshirt junior quarterback Noah Kim and redshirt sophomore running back Nathan Carter haven’t found the same production as their first two starts.
Both Kim and Carter have shown they can produce on the field. Kim had thrown for 571 yards and five passing touchdowns compared to just 326 yards and a one passing touchdown and three interception ratio, with two picks coming against the Terrapins. Carter found the end zone four times in the first two contests, and has yet to record a touchdown since.
Conference play will continue to challenge the Spartans moving forward. Discipline has been Barnett’s motto for the season so far, and continues to preach that his players will go out and compete no matter the circumstance to learn from their mistakes and get back on track.
“We have a team of competitors,” Barnett said. “And so when you are a competitor, you always are trying to get better and enter the right ship, so to speak. I asked them their analysis in there, anybody that has been like hey man, this is over, I’m out of here, you can raise your hand. No love loss, and then you can move on, it’s no problem. Nobody raised their hand.”