Blown assignments may lead MSU defense to change lineup

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing – Less than a week after allowing as many points as it has in the last four seasons, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was lamenting the missed opportunities in a 46-27 loss to Oregon while suggesting there could be changes to the lineup.

The Spartans held the Ducks in check for most the first two-and-a-half quarters, but No. 2 Oregon exploded for 28 straight points to close the game.

"We didn't finish the game and didn't finish plays when we had the opportunity," Narduzzi said. "We had a couple of busts, and they had two pick routes on us and there's no call. You've got to live with it and you've got to stay on your guy. Sometimes they do (get called), but they let the offensive guys do whatever they want. But it was good by them and we didn't execute."

It didn't help that the Spartans were facing Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota, whose individual efforts sparked the Oregon comeback.

The Heisman candidate threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns while running for 42 yards. But it was his ability to escape as the Michigan State defense closed in that made the difference in the game.

"We missed too many sacks," Narduzzi said. "We had three -- could have had seven. You've got to give him credit, he made them miss. He's the best quarterback we've faced since Russell Wilson, in my opinion. He's a guy that can hurt you with his arm and his feet. I was impressed with him."

It made the loss especially difficult to handle considering Michigan State – one of the best defenses in the nation the last three seasons -- forced seven three-and-outs, in addition to those three sacks.

"Any loss is hard; it doesn't matter how you take it, Narduzzi said. "I think it is hard when the kids look back at it and watch the tape and say, 'Oh my gosh.' We lose contain on the quarterback and we've got them covered and he scrambles for a first down."

The result of the missed assignments and lack of communication could lead to a shuffling depth chart as No. 13 Michigan State prepares to host Eastern Michigan next week.

"We keep the competition open all year," Narduzzi said. "There's always competition and there will be some moves on the depth chart for the next game."

Where those could come is anyone's guess, but it could include nearly every spot on the field other than defensive end (Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush), free safety (Kurtis Drummond) and boundary corner (Trae Waynes).

The Spartans played with just three defensive tackles – some of it because of the tempo of the game – as only Malik McDowell played other than starters Lawrence Thomas and Joel Heath. At linebacker there were several breakdowns across the board and the secondary had its issues.

"There were a couple of times we didn't communicate very well, so we've got to keep getting better," Narduzzi said. "We've got young guys out there and they need to communicate, from the back end all the way up to the front."