MSU defense laments missed opportunities

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News


East Lansing — In the final seconds Saturday night, the matchup between Michigan State and Nebraska came down to one final play.

When Trae Waynes intercepted a Tommy Armstrong pass with 30 seconds to play, it sealed a 27-22 victory for the Spartans. And while the Cornhuskers looked back and lamented a slow start and an inability to run the ball, it was the Spartans who felt like they left plenty of missed opportunities on the field.

"They made a couple big plays and we had an opportunity to make plays and we didn't," linebacker Riley Bullough said. "That's what happens when you play a good team. They're going to bust a couple out, which they did. Thankfully we could hang on to it."

The missed opportunities started for the defense midway through the second quarter. Leading 14-0 and with Nebraska deep in Michigan State territory, Ed Davis forced a fumble by the Cornhuskers' Ameer Abdullah.

Shilique Calhoun scooped the ball up and took off but was dragged down by Nebraska receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El.

"I don't know if I had six," Calhoun said. "That guy was pretty fast, I expected him to catch me, he's a shiftier guy, a lot faster."

Instead of capitalizing with a touchdown, the Spartans settled for a Michael Geiger field goal.

The defense got a tough break early in the second half when Marcus Rush hit Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong, who lost the ball. Bullough picked it up and ran for the touchdown. But the officials called it an incomplete pass. Only after a review was Michigan State given the ball, but only where Bullough recovered.

Another Geiger field goal followed.

And late in the fourth quarter with Michigan State holding a 27-9 lead, Kurtis Drummond appeared to have an easy interception and a sure touchdown in his hands. Instead the ball went off his hands into those of Nebraska's Jordan Westerkamp, who took it 41 yards. The Huskers eventually scored a touchdown on that drive.

"They had been running that same route a lot in the game and it was just play recognition," Drummond said, shaking his head. "I didn't look the ball in completely. That's a mistake I shouldn't make. I definitely will have more plays like that to make this season."

None of them proved to be too costly for Michigan State on this night and could prove to provide valuable experience moving forward.

"Football is a crazy game and things can turn very, very quickly," coach Mark Dantonio said. "We started well and played a tremendous football game, especially on defense for three-and-a-half quarters. Then Nebraska caught fire a little bit and we had a missed interception with a bounce and next thing you know it's a game and it gets dicey. But it's good to have a close game and win in the end."

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