After getting obliterated by the No. 13 Ohio State Buckeyes, 48-3, it’s clear that this Michigan State football team simply wasn’t ready. Not in the sense that they didn’t prepare well enough for the game, but in the sense that they are too young and weren’t necessarily ready for the big moment.
The Spartans came into Columbus with a very young offensive line, featuring sophomore left tackle Cole Chewins, sophomore left guard Tyler Higby, freshman right guard Kevin Jarvis and redshirt freshman Luke Campbell. These four faced the tall task of coming to Ohio Stadium and matching up with a talented Buckeye defensive line in quite possibly the biggest game of the season.
The game would determine the Big Ten East title as the winner would have better than a 95% chance to win the division, according to SB Nation. The youth and inexperience showed as the line was beaten time and time again by guys like sophomore defensive end Nick Bosa and linebacker Malik Harrison who both collected a sack on the day. The Buckeyes dropped Lewerke six times in total.
“I didn’t think they brought a ton of blitzes, it was more just they were beating out guys, they were very good on the outside, the ends were very solid and they were able to get past our guys,” said Lewerke.
If they didn’t get a sack, then the Buckeyes at least pressured second-year quarterback Brian Lewerke, who finished 18 for 36 passing for 131 yards. Lewerke had no time in the pocket and even when he did he was inaccurate, missing a number of throws.
“They pressured us, their front seven is very good, their front four and the different people that they play is very good and the back end, they manned us up and pressed us and we didn’t win enough,” said head coach Mark Dantonio.
The defensive line didn’t do much better, as both OSU running backs, Mike Weber and J.K Dobbins, carved the Spartans up for 162 and 124 yards respectively. The defensive seven consists of four sophomores, defensive end Kenny Willekes, defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk, middle linebacker Joe Bachie and nose tackle Raequan Williams. The defense was a far cry from their usual selves as they were the third-best rushing defense in all of college football heading into Columbus. In this game, they allowed over 335 rushing yards and looked lost on numerous plays.
Although the Spartans’ youth was a problem in this game, it is a bright sign for the future. All of the players mentioned will gain experience from playing in enemy territory under the brightest of lights and that alone will only make them better, more confident next time around. This team is young and many of them haven’t even started many games, let alone big ones like this at an opponent’s stadium. For example, this is only Lewerke’s 11th career start under center, Bachie hasn’t even cracked double digits yet with only nine starts and Jarvis has only six.
More games under their belt and more starts will only serve to make them better. The talent is there, but the way you truly excel is by combining talent with experience.
“I believe that if you look for things, there is always value in any experience you have no matter how negative it can become, there’s going to be value in that if you learn from it,” said Dantonio.
The Spartans may have lost the game and they most likely won’t be in contention for a New Year’s Six game like fans want them to be, but these next few games will help build upon an already solid foundation. A foundation that due to its youth looks to be great for a long time.