Cam’s Corner: Wolverines submit the Spartans in heated affair


Michigan State wide receiver Keon Coleman carries the ball after completing a catch on Oct. 29, 2022/ Photo credit: Sarah Smith

Cameron McClarren, Sports Broadcast Assistant

EAST LANSING — The Michigan State Spartans dropped a hard-fought battle to the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines at the Big House on Saturday night, pushing the Spartans to their fifth loss this season. The Spartans were unable to keep a hold of the Paul Bunyan trophy for the first time in the Mel Tucker era as MSU fell 29-7. 

Here are three takeaways from Michigan State’s loss to Michigan:

Keon Coleman is for real

If the Spartans were going to make a splash and surprise the Wolverines, they were going to need a big day from one of their top receivers. On a night where the Spartan’s woeful offense proved costly, the lone bright spot came from their sophomore wideout Keon Coleman. 

Coleman was the sole reason why MSU was only down by one possession at halftime and his first half performance complimented a solid first half for the Spartan offense. Coleman had four receptions on four targets in the first half with all of his receptions going for 22 or more yards. 

Coleman’s ability to make a tough catch was on display on MSU’s scoring drive as he came down with a crucial third down catch for a gain of 29 yards. Two plays later, he came down with a “jump ball” catch in double coverage, and waltzed into the end zone to put MSU ahead 7-3 late in the first quarter. 

However, MSU’s sputtering second-half offense kept the reins on an impressive night for Coleman who finished the game with five receptions for 155 yards and the lone Spartan touchdown. With the offense unable to produce anything in the second half, Coleman was hindered in his abilities to keep drives alive after being targeted three times on MSU’s final five possessions. 

On any other night, Coleman’s performance would be a crucial factor in a potential win or loss for the Spartans. That didn’t happen on Saturday night as other factors led to a disappointing display for MSU. If the offense can find a way to continue utilizing Coleman’s talent in tight coverage, the Spartans may have a chance of making something out of this season.


Death by inches

If MSU wants any part in postseason play, they are going to need to stop the bleeding in crucial situations, or what head coach Mel Tucker has cited as “death by inches.”

The Spartans have had their problems on third and fourth down, converting at very suboptimal rates. They have failed to convert four out of their past five attempts on fourth down after going 4-for-6 on fourth down conversions against Washington earlier in the season. 

On Saturday, death by inches took its toll on the Spartans as they not only failed to convert on fourth down three out of their four tries, but it left valuable points off the board and gave momentum back to the Wolverines when the Spartans needed it most. 

After the Wolverines reclaimed the lead in the second quarter off of a Blake Corum two-yard touchdown reception, the Spartans marched down the field looking to build off the success of their previous drive. Instead, the Spartans made it to the Michigan five-yard line and were stuffed on fourth down as Jalen Berger was stopped at the line of scrimmage.

In the postgame press conference, Tucker said that it was a “snap count” issue that prevented the offensive line from moving at the same time, allowing for Michigan’s defensive line to create instant havoc in the Spartan backfield. 

After being seven weeks into the season, that can’t happen if you want to win games, or even better, beat your biggest rival for the third consecutive year. 

On defense, the Spartans once again had trouble getting their opposition off the field on third down. After allowing Michigan to convert five of its eight third downs in the first half, the Spartans held their own, keeping the Wolverines to nine third down conversions on 16 tries. 

The real problem was that the Spartans gave up 27 first downs to the Wolverines, including 13 in the first half. The defense was on the field for a majority of the second half due to the inability of the offense to click and Michigan took advantage, wearing down the Spartans with a combination of chunk rushing and passing plays. 

The Wolverines’ ability to break down the Spartan defense was crucial as they continually found themselves in field goal range. The Spartans held strong in the red zone, but kicker Jake Moody, who went a perfect five-for-five on field goal tries, pushed the Wolverine lead further out of reach. 


Night and Day

After showcasing moments of some offensive capabilities in overtime against Wisconsin, the Spartan offense came out with a point to prove on their opening drive. Unfortunately for the Spartans, another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on an MSU offensive lineman stalled the Spartans’ opening drive.

It was the start of an ill-disciplined displayed. 

The Spartans may not have committed as many penalties as they did against Wisconsin but the offense, whether by penalty, play calling, or execution was nowhere to be found. 

The Spartans had a decent first half, which is something that has not been the case since the first few weeks of the season. Thanks in large part to Coleman’s receiving yardage, the Spartans gained 189 yards on 30 plays, holding the ball for 12:32 in the first half leading to a six-point deficit at halftime. 

Things would change drastically in the second half. 

The Spartan offense was lethargic in the third quarter, running six total plays and holding possession for a measly 2:10 as Michigan extended their lead off of two field goals to 19-7. Even worse, the offense could not get going in the fourth quarter as the Wolverines put the finishing touches on the Spartans, scoring 10 points in the final quarter. 

The box score speaks for itself. What it won’t show is that the MSU offense was abysmal in the second half. What killed the Spartans was the time of possession which heavily favored the Wolverines, who held the ball for over 40 minutes Saturday night. 

With the Spartan offense failing to pick up any sort of momentum, or first downs for that matter, the defense was left out to dry as multiple three-and-outs saw the Spartans get worn down leading to the Wolverines’ “death by a thousand cuts” scoring. 

If the Spartans want to make a bowl game, are some serious questions that should be answered about the offense heading into the final month of play. Execution on fourth down has been pitiful and execution, in general, has been the buzzword used in press conferences before and after games by Tucker. 

With eight games played this season, a lack of execution is simply not acceptable.