- Adam Glanzman/Daily
By Liz Vukelich, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 2, 2013
EAST LANSING — After his team’s loss to Michigan State on Saturday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke talked about how a game can be lost in a matter of six to eight key plays.
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In the Wolverines' 29-6 loss to Michigan State, though, you could say it all came down to one play.
The major momentum shift, the key that gave the Spartans the energy they needed to run away with the game and never look back, came in the waning minutes of the first half.
With the game knotted at six, Michigan State faced a third-and-six from the Michigan 24 yard line. The Michigan defense, if not stellar, has had its moments this season and Spartan quarterback Connor Cook had average numbers entering the contest. It probably should have been an easy stop for the Wolverines.
But the Spartans easily converted the third down. The drive ended in the form of a touchdown with 23 seconds left in the half.
“That was a disappointing drive,” Hoke said. “It drives you crazy when you give up points right at the end of the half. It’s disappointing. “
Michigan never regained a lead, or even scored, after that.
For as much talk as there was leading into the game in regards to how the Wolverine offense could conquer the Spartans’ highly-touted defense, perhaps more attention should have been paid to the inverse.
Yes, much of the Wolverines’ woes on Saturday had to do with the lack of any offensive production. But Michigan’s defense transformed and broke down after allowing that touchdown.
The players and coaches blamed it all on a lack of consistency.
“It’s a lack of execution on both sides of the ball,” said junior linebacker Desmond Morgan. “As a defense, there’s opportunities we had and we didn’t capitalize. When you don’t capitalize in a game like this, obviously things aren’t going to turn out the way you like.”
The defense had plenty to work with, but nothing happened. Michigan State continued to complete its third downs. And with redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner struggling mightily, the Wolverines recognized the significance having to stall the Spartans to compensate for Michigan’s offensive lapses.
“Defensively, when our offense is in a rut or maybe not on the momentum that they need, that’s when we’ve got to pick up our end of it and pick up the slack,” Morgan said.
The Wolverines weren’t without their own opportunity to swing things back in their favor, though. Junior defensive back Raymon Taylor caught an interception late in the third quarter that he returned for 17 yards.
But Michigan’s following drive resulted in two sacks. Wile had to punt again, and the same beat up Wolverine defense came back out to face the Spartans.
Entering the contest, the coaching staff emphasized the need for Michigan to stop the big plays. But by the second half, the defense — and secondary in particularly — seemed virtually non-existent, allowing Cook to complete his passes and leaving holes open for the Spartans to run through.
“I just know at the end of the day, the defense was called, we were unable to stop and unable to execute,” Morgan said. “We missed our opportunities and had to capitalize.”