After listening to boo birds dump on the Redskins all last week, I don't have the stomach to rail against MSU's collapse against the Fighting Irish. I was really miffed at the coaching staff for what seemed to be stupid playcalling in the fourth quarter until I looked at the play-by-play.
With 14:20 to go, and the Spartans holding a 16 point lead after thoroughly dominating Notre Dame, MSU drove to the Irish 30 yard line poised to burn up clock and at least get a field goal. Running the ball was all that was called for. Then two holding calls put MSU at second down and 27 yards to go. The coaches called for a pass play to get back to field goal range. You can make a strong case for keeping the ball on the ground to burn up the clock and leaving the game to your defense (my choice). But a pass play to set up a field goal was not unreasonable when your quarterback is Drew Stanton. Unfortunately, Stanton was sacked for a 15 yard loss. On third down, Javon Ringer rushed 12 yards to the 50, and the Irish declined another holding penalty.
Notre Dame took the ball on their own twenty and drove for the first of their three fourth quarter touchdowns. That blew the "leave it to the defense" approach.
I've had my doubts about coach John L. Smith, but this was a team breakdown. Coaches don't teach penalties. Too much early celebrating by schoolboys perhaps.
Michigan State reassembled most of the members of the great 1965-66 national championship team only to witness Notre Dame's Charlie Weis announce that he was presenting the game ball to their old nemesis, Ara Parseghian.
It's at moments of crises like this that the Spartan's usually fold the tent on the season, a failing that goes back to the Bobby Williams days. The Spartans haven't had a tough minded football team since Nick Saban was coach. Keeping a the team from collapsing may help Smith keep this job. That game against Notre Dame will surely help him lose it.
I'll leave the Spartan bashing to this guy.
Photo: REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)
Yes, this is a Redskins blog. For a recap of the Texans game, look here.
Michigan State Spartans