Michigan State: The kids aren’t all right, not this time

In November, urgency matters. Time is short. Memories are shorter. Ohio State opened the season with nine senior starters, tied for the fifth most in the Big Ten. Michigan State opened with three — the fewest in the league.

The Buckeyes played Saturday like a team running out of games, and compelling evidence, in order to salvage 2017.

The Spartans, for once, looked their age.

Urban Meyer 48, Mark Dantonio 3.

We’d say they never know what hit them, except we do. The last place you want to be, even if you’re Dantonio, is standing in front of a Meyer team that is trying to prove something. Especially if that something is for a bunch of executives in another state who can’t get a 31-point bashing at Iowa out of their skulls.

Wrong place.

Wrong team.

The Spartans (7-3, 5-2 Big Ten) are saltier than they looked Saturday, which after being outgained 524-195, ain’t saying much, we’ll grant you.

But as Dantonio noted, they also lacked the extra set of brakes — be it the fault of coaching, maturity, what have you — to stop the bleeding when pinned against the wall inside one of college football’s loudest cockpits.

Recent Michigan State teams have made dancing at Ohio Stadium look easy. It isn’t, and Week 11 reminded us why. There is no ideal time to run into the Buckeyes (8-2, 6-1), but straight after a rare Ohio State de-pantsing on national television probably wasn’t ideal, in hindsight.

The Buckeyes didn’t allow the Spartans to find the tight end in a pinch, the way Iowa did. Didn’t allow them to use the pass to set up the run, the way the Hawkeyes did. Didn’t allow them to breathe, let alone think.

When Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke scrambled left with 10:17 left in the first half, got the ball stripped by Ohio State’s Tyquan Lewis and recovered at the Buckeyes’ 25 by Damon Arnette, the wheels were off. When a swing pass to J.K. Dobbins three plays later turned into an 8-yard touchdown and a 27-0 Buckeyes lead, the engine was on fire.

Mike Weber broke off left tackle for an 82-yard touchdown that made it 34-0, giving him 161 rushing yards — more than Sparty had surrendered over an entire contest against ranked Penn State (65) and Northwestern (64) sides combined.

‘Hard to continue to play hard when you’re down 35-zip.’

— Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio

You always need a Plan B on the road, but those paths are hard to find when Plan A, your bread and your butter, fail so spectacularly and quickly in bizarre unison. The Spartans had come in No. 1 in the Big Ten in rush defense, giving up 87 yards on the ground per contest. Ohio State had run for 150 by the time there was 11:45 left in the first half. With 11:35 left, senior signal caller J.T. Barrett had notched his second 4-yard touchdown run of the afternoon to push the lead to 20-0.

The Buckeyes’ ideal plan is rooted in common sense: Put you on second- and third-and-forever behind the chains on defense, then break your spirit with explosion plays on offense. The Spartans ran right into the Urban narrative at the outset, allowing 2 sacks on a game-opening drive that got as far as the Ohio State 36 before Nick Bosa dropped Lewerke for a 12-yard loss on third-and-7.

The Hawkeyes were forced into third-and-7-and-more just three times — the fourth was a targeting penalty on Bosa that wiped out the play — in Iowa City the weekend before.

Michigan State faced those comparative third-and-longs seven times in the first two quarters alone.

That’s anger.

That’s urgency.

There are places you can play from behind the chains that consistently and still salvage something. The Shoe ain’t one of  ’em. There may not be a 2017 East Division title in the offing for the Spartans, but there will be better days. So long as they can remember well the painful lessons from this one.

The post Michigan State: The kids aren’t all right, not this time appeared first on Land of 10.

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