Michigan State football capped off day of missed opportunities

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 31: Thomas Graham Jr. #4 of the Oregon Ducks breaks up the pass to Cody White #7 of the Michigan State Spartans on fourth down late in the fourth quarter of the Redbox Bowl at Levi's Stadium on December 31, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 31: Thomas Graham Jr. #4 of the Oregon Ducks breaks up the pass to Cody White #7 of the Michigan State Spartans on fourth down late in the fourth quarter of the Redbox Bowl at Levi's Stadium on December 31, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Michigan State football capped off a tough day for Spartan athletics, missing opportunities left and right. Let’s recap the rough end to 2018.

New Year’s Eve for 2018 was not a good day for Michigan State athletics. It was a day that many opportunities were presented and the Spartans did not seize the day. The day started early and Michigan State athletics looked to trending up.

Michigan State Hockey the night before lost to Lake Superior State in overtime in the opening game of the Great Lakes Invitational 4-3. As I had wrote in my Spartan fans wish list, there was hope that the hockey team could win the GLA and help propel them into 2019 looking to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Even with the loss, Michigan State had an opportunity to beat Michigan in an early game that started at 11:30 p.m. ET. The Spartans looked good early in the game leading 2-1 after the first period. After neither team scoring in the second period, Michigan scored in the third period to tie the game up.

At the end of regulation, it remained 2-2. In overtime, neither team scored ending the game in a tie. Usually, there would be a shootout to but due to it being a consolation game for third place in the tournament and because of time constraints of there being three games played at Little Caeser’s Arena on New Year’s Eve, there was no shootout to decide a winner.

The good news for Michigan State hockey is that they are technically undefeated in the three games against Michigan having a record of 1-0-2 with a shootout win in the game against the Wolverines in Ann Arbor this season. However, they missed a huge opportunity to beat their rivals and head into 2019 with momentum to salvaging this season and even possibly earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

The Michigan State football team had over a month to get healthier and time to fix their problems on offense. In the Spartans’ last three regular season games, they only scored two touchdowns and those two scores were at home against a one-win, last place Big Ten East foe Rutgers.

The Michigan State defense, by many accounts, had been playing better than good but great. The offense was holding the team back and there was plenty of blame and excuses to go around. However, the Redbox Bowl was an opportunity for redemption and more importantly to once again take momentum from a bowl game victory going into next season.

At 3 p.m. ET, the Spartans took the field to play the Oregon Ducks of the Pac-12. A prime opportunity to win against a well recognized national program and go into next season with confidence and hope for a chance to compete for a Big East title. The first half showed promise and disappointment all rolled into one.

The defense looked and played great and held the high-powered Duck offense, led by projected top NFL quarterback prospect Justin Herbert to zero points through three quarters. The problem was the the Spartan offense’s inability to score touchdowns. As I had written in my Spartan fan’s wish list, the hope and more importantly the expectation was for Michigan State to score just two touchdowns against Oregon.

If Portland State can score two touchdowns against the Ducks, you would think or do we dare say assume that the Spartans with over a month of preparation could muster up at minimum two touchdowns. Bowling Green scored 24 points against Oregon and Arizona who was not even bowl eligible this season scored 44 points against the Ducks. So what happened? Why couldn’t Michigan State score any touchdowns against Oregon?

If you look at the numbers, Michigan State’s offense performance was OK or decent against Oregon’s defense. The Spartans had 331 yards of total offense and most importantly, they had 159 rushing yards which is very important to coach Mark Dantonio’s offensive philosophy.

The Spartans only had one turnover, though it was a costly one. However, in the big picture (like many games this season), Michigan State could not get into the end zone and the lack of a big-time play-maker was evident. The game ended up being the third time in four games that Michigan State had failed to score a touchdown. Spartan fans can play the blame game all they want but when there are so many problems as to why Michigan State can’t score touchdowns, the future does not look as bright as it once was.

You can take it one step further as I did when I wrote about the Spartan defense needing to create turnovers and even score defensive touchdowns. As great as this defense was for Michigan State was this season, they could not make up for the lack of offense. The Spartans created zero turnovers against Oregon, which doesn’t mean that Michigan State’s defense didn’t play great against the Ducks but they didn’t create opportunities.

The 2013 defense was a one of a kind defense and they helped that season’s team win games. Connor Cook of 2013 was not Connor Cook of 2014 or 2015 in terms of overall production. The 2013 defense was the difference that season, the 2018 defense was more in line with the 2012 defense. Against Oregon, Michigan State needed to create a turnover or even score a touchdown.

Michigan State ended up losing 7-6 to Oregon which is not embarrassing my any means. Frustrating sure, but definitely not embarrassing. Spartan fans can talk about the offensive play-calling, quarterback play, offensive line production, lack of a play-maker, and the list goes on.

Too many problems and concerns that many Spartan fans are hoping will be fixed with time and the growing experience of the players and coaching staff as opposed to the possible reality that the concerns about Michigan State’s 2018 offense will carry over to the 2019 offense.  All in all, only time will tell and we shall all see at the end of 2019.

Next. 5 takeaways from Redbox Bowl loss to Oregon. dark

Much hope and opportunities were to be seized and had for Michigan State on New Year’s Eve in 2018 however, reality sunk in and it was not good. Facts are facts and results are results. Teams either win, lose, or tie when they compete with other teams. The main objective is to win and Michigan State did not do that on New Year’s Eve in 2018.