Michigan State: Five things we learned

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Quarterback concerns

It’s probably a bit premature to say Michigan State is in a quarterback crisis, but the fact is fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor did not play well against Wisconsin and has yet to stand out. O’Connor has thrown five interceptions in three games and has a tendency to lock onto receivers. The Spartans went with redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke late with the game already out of hand, but it will be interesting to see what happens if O’Connor struggles at Indiana.

Issues up front

The offensive line was outstanding in the victory over Notre Dame but that all came crashing down against a physical Wisconsin defensive front. The Spartans managed just 75 yards rushing after gaining 260 vs. Notre Dame, and they allowed four sacks and seven quarterback hurries.

Linebacker health

The Spartans are strongest at linebacker and the depth at that spot has been touted since preseason camp. Well, now it’s going to truly get tested as middle linebacker Riley Bullough missed the Wisconsin game with an apparent shoulder injury and could be out for the next few weeks. On top of that, outside linebacker Jon Reschke appeared to hurt his ankle in the second half and didn’t return.

Coach Dantonio: No QB change coming - not yet

Pass rush woes

The Spartans seemed to get a bit more pressure on Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook but it only resulted in two sacks. As a result, coach Mark Dantonio decided late in the game to pull the redshirts from freshmen defensive ends Josh King and Auston Robertson. Whether it makes a significant difference remains to be seen.

Get off the field

Wisconsin converted seven of its 16 third-down opportunities — 5-for-8 in the first half — and both of its fourth-down chances. What made it worse was often the third downs were long-yardage situations and Hornibrook beat the MSU secondary. Figuring out how to avoid those deflating plays will be one of the defense’s biggest challenges moving forward.