Michigan State expecting to regroup after demoralizing loss to Oregon

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Eugene, Ore. — Michigan State’s trip home from the West Coast on Saturday night was, as expected, a quiet one.

The Spartans had a chance to make a huge statement in their game against No. 3 Oregon and for nearly two-and-a-half quarters, they were playing as well as any team in the country, opening a nine-point lead midway through the third quarter.

But missed assignments and missed tackles caught up to them in the final quarter-plus as Oregon scored 28 straight points to win, 46-27. The loss ended an 11-game winning streak and put Michigan State in a difficult position nationally just two games into the season.

“When you have very high expectations, there’s going to be disappointment,” coach Mark Dantonio said on his weekly teleconference Sunday evening. “We talked about climbing a mountain and all that kind of stuff, but when you get to the top of the mountain, it gets steep. The competition is very fierce and extremely competitive.”

That fierce competition was highlighted by the play of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns while using his feet to routinely frustrate a Spartans defense that was far from the unit that was among the best in the country the last three seasons.

Michigan State held him in check, for the most part, in the first half but couldn’t contain the Heisman Trophy candidate for the entire game. His third-down scramble and pass flip to running back Thomas Tyner when he stepped out of three tackles was the highlight for his night and it sparked the Ducks’ 28-point onslaught.

It was something not seen often against the Michigan State defense.

“When you look at the film, there were a number of missed communications because of the crowd noise, whatever the case,” Dantonio said. “When we’re checking things, getting in and out of different defenses, there were certain gaps. We were misaligned a couple times. We had some mistakes in that respect.

“But they have explosive players and it starts with the quarterback. There’s one time where we got three guys on the quarterback, three, staring right at him. I don’t know whether he pulled a rabbit out of his hat, but all of a sudden the defensive tackle takes off to chasing the running back when he clearly sees the ball in front of him. … Then he avoids two other guys, then another time he avoids three. He made plays. He created. You have to respect that.”

There were bright spots for the Spartans.

Tony Lippett had a career-high 11 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown while R.J. Shelton had 209 all-purpose yards, including a 59-yard kickoff return. Connor Cook, despite throwing two interceptions, was 29-for-47 for 343 yards and two touchdowns.

“I thought R.J. Shelton had some big plays, big kickoff return, big run on a sweep,” Dantonio said. “Lippett obviously played very well. I thought Connor Cook played extremely well early on, probably through the first two-and-a-half to three quarters. After that, they sort of blanketed us up a little bit.”

It was harder to come up with many highlights on defense as the Spartans gave up nearly 500 yards, allowed the Ducks to convert on two fourth downs and gave up several big plays, including a 70-yard touchdown pass.

“Marcus Rush played pretty well, had some effort plays out there,” Dantonio said. “When you look across the board … Kurtis Drummond played pretty well. I think (Ed) Davis and Taiwan (Jones) didn’t play too poorly.”

It wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, but Dantonio is confident his team, which will be on a bye this week, will not fold after the loss with plenty still left to play for.

“We need to understand that we have come a ways,” he said. “People are disappointed we didn’t win the game and put ourselves in the national championship hunt after Week 2. But our goals and my goal has always been to get that Big Ten championship game and springboard to what we can do from there. We need to understand that, ground ourselves, regain our composure, which we will.

“Again, when you have disappointment, it grounds you, but it also brings you together. I said after the game we need to gain something from this experience, and I think we will. I think we’ll get stronger inevitably. What this program has been able to do consistently I would say, when there have been difficulties or what I call storms, we have been able to push through those storms and come out the back end successfully. That’s what we’ll try to accomplish.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau

Eastern Michigan at Michigan State

Kickoff:

TBA, Sept. 20, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing

TV/radio:

TBA/WJR

Records:

Eastern Michigan 1-1, Michigan State 1-1

Series:

MSU leads 9-0 (Michigan State 23-7, Sept. 22, 2012)