2. Protect the football
If I were giving out grades, the Spartans would get a D- on this one.
Two lost fumbles, both in Rutgers territory. The only reason they don’t fail is because Rutgers also had a couple bad interceptions and key drops by receivers because of the rain. But what Rutgers on offense has nothing to do receivers not securing the ball. The defense isn’t going to get a turnover the next play every time Montorie Foster Jr. fumbles.
There isn’t enough skill and talent on this team to make up for errors like this. Holding onto the ball is a fundamental skill and the margin of error is already razor thin for the squad. It simply can’t happen against good teams to them to have any shot. of winning another game.
But by far, the most telling thing that came out of the fumbles was Alante Brown’s reaction. He catches a great ball, fumbles, then sits on the ground and puts his head down. Desmond Igbinosun is still running down the field, fighting through tackles as Brown just slowly gets up and stands there watching. It takes zero (0) skill to get up and try to make the tackle going back. Who knows, maybe you can strip the ball while your teammates are trying to bring him down, but that’s impossible when you’re just standing still.
It made my blood boil watching Brown loaf because it’s a microcosm of the culture that this coaching staff brings to the table. Something goes wrong and you want to put your head down and wallow in it. In the last three losses, it just seems like one thing goes wrong and it’s just a spiral of mistakes piling on top of each other until the clock hits 0:00 and you’re left staring into space, pondering every decision you’ve ever made that brought you to this moment where you have to be associated with this derelict football program.
Then there’s the chef’s kiss of the whole game.
With eight minutes left, Michigan State sends its hands team out to recover an onside kick even though there’s eight minutes left in a 3-point football game. There isn’t a single explanation that the coaching staff could give that could justify that decision. Your offense had back-to-back stalled drives so it’s not like Rutgers would purposely try to steal a possession. Only the Indianapolis Colts’ fake punt is worse than this decision by special teams coordinator Ross Els while Harlon Barnett heard this through his headset and gave the green light.
Not a single coach on this team should have a job next year with maybe the exception of Courtney Hawkins and that’s contingent on if Nick Marsh can stay committed to MSU.
If you think I’m done bashing the special teams, you’re sorely mistaken. The fact that players can’t even line up correctly for a punt shows that the person coordinating special teams can’t do their job correctly, nor do the players care enough to do the right thing. Even if someone lines up incorrectly, shouldn’t another player know that someone isn’t in the right spot? It’s a punt, there is such a finite number of formations for a play that happens more than any in the Big Ten. All of this directly leads to having to punt again, leading to the punter not being focused enough to keep his eye on the ball before kicking it away.
I truly think it’s harder to be this bad at special teams than if some guy off the street were to come in for a week and run it. In baseball terms, Ross Els has a negative WAR (Wins Above Replacement coach).