Despite a big day from Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State saw Northwestern make just enough plays to walk off the Spartan Stadium turf with a 23-20 victory leaving Spartan fans questioning the direction of the program’s offense and if there has been improvement throughout the season. Mark Dantonio addressed the topic after the game.
“We’re young and play with a lot of people on the offensive line that has been in and out,” explained Dantonio. “I would say our receiving group has improved and we are running the ball more effectively. It’s the turnovers. You can’t turn the ball over four times in a game and one for a touchdown. You have to look at the fourth down play we didn’t get as a turnover. We don’t get points out of those situations, and you can’t make those critical mistakes.”
The loss sets up a must win for the Spartans next week in Minnesota with Dantonio knowing its importance.
“Very important,” said Dantonio. “We need to go to a bowl game. We have played better away from home so maybe that’s the omen this year. We need to go to Minnesota with the mindset and right idea to get it done. I don’t care what bowl it is, but that has to be the focus.”
With the Spartans having loss all their Big Ten games by a total of 13 points, Dantonio knows the disappointment being felt by all.
“We keep pressing forward and talking about playing yourself out of this,” said Dantonio. “It’s a test and you’re under fire under the test and you have to be able to respond and persevere through these things.
“There’s no question on the football field you have to make plays. It’s not an animated TV deal. You have to match the catch, the block or the throw. We had a blown coverage after we tied it up on a very basic defense. Next thing you know they are kicking a field goal to go up 23-20 and that’s the end of the game.
“There are too many plays that are like that that need to be made. There’s no way to sugar coat it. I love our football team and the way we play and how hard we play as well as the coaches. Collectively as a group we have to win. Everybody in that locker room right now is extremely disappointed. We made some plays but we have to win.”
Bell may have summed it up best following the game.
“It’s frustrating, it’s just frustrating,” said Bell. “Guys know where we fall. Where things are here and there, where we could have done better. It’s not just at the end of the game or the beginning, it’s the whole game. Every play is a big play. We just need to make sure we execute on whatever play we are on, and just keep moving forward.”
The Spartans will look to regroup knowing another poor performance next Saturday will leave them home during the bowl season while possible stunting the growth of the program.