O’Connor still MSU’s starter — for the moment

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Spartan quarterback Tyler O'Connor gets tied up in heavy traffic for little gain.

Bloomington, Ind. — A week ago, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said the only way there would be a quarterback controversy was if the Spartans failed to get production from the position.

Following Saturday’s 24-21 overtime loss at Indiana — the second straight loss to open Big Ten play for the Spartans — some might be wondering if Dantonio has reached that point.

Following fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor’s play against the Hoosiers, Dantonio still wasn’t committing to anything, saying that he supports O’Connor but was reserving final judgement until he looked at the game film.

“Based on what I see he is (still the starter),” Dantonio said. “Again, you watch the film and make decisions based on that, but I would say so.”

The final numbers weren’t awful for O’Connor. He was 21-for-35 for 263 yards and three touchdowns and didn’t throw an interception. He also engineered an impressive drive in the final five minutes to tie the score at 21 with 11 seconds to play.

O’Connor was 5-for-6 on the drive and connected with tight end Josiah Price for a 2-yard touchdown with just 11 seconds to play. O’Connor said there was no doubt in the huddle that the Spartans would move down the field and tie the score.

“We had no doubt,” O’Connor said of the final drive. “Obviously it sucks to look up and see you’re down seven points with four minutes left. But they didn’t stop us. We converted on a lot of third downs and every time we were stopped I’m pretty sure it was a penalty or something silly. We had no doubt (on the last drive). We just had to play well and not hurt ourselves.”

But there was a significant share of poor decisions and wayward passes, as well. There were also a few dropped passes, but O’Connor missed a few more open receivers and with the game on the line in overtime, he was unable to extend plays and took two sacks, essentially ending any chance for the Spartans to score.

“I thought he made some plays downfield that were right on the money and should have been caught,” Dantonio said. “He managed the game effectively. You always want some plays back but he made some plays, too. Made some plays with his feet.”

But if the Spartans (2-2, 0-2 Big Ten) are going to get their season turned around, they’ll need more from O’Connor.

“Overall I thought it was decent,” O’Connor said of his performance. “I made good decisions with the ball and managed the game. There are a couple of throws you always want to take back, but for the most part I did all right. Could be better.

“This one is gonna sting for 24 hours or until we watch (the film). Our job as leaders is to get everyone rallied back and remind everyone what this program is and this is not what we’re used to, this is not what we’re about. Everything that happened today was on us.”