Fourth quarter woes have kept Michigan State’s perfect start to the Big Ten season seeming imperfect.
The Spartans stayed at the No. 8 spot in the AP Top 25 poll after a 45-38 win at Purdue last Saturday, in a game that was a lot closer than expected. Much like the previous week against Nebraska, MSU had a large lead turn into to a one-possession game and had to rely on a defensive stop in the final minutes to survive with a victory.
The story of Michigan State’s success this season has been offensive production, scoring 273 points through six games. Last year, Michigan State’s offense had only 183 points after six games, and they needed several defensive touchdowns to get to that number.
As for the fourth quarter, the Spartans have only scored 28 points — 14 against Eastern Michigan in their 73-14 massacre of the Eagles, and seven against Wyoming. For all four other games, the Spartan offense has been goose-egged in the fourth quarter. There seems to be no lack of talent in Dave Warner’s offense, but the execution is only there for the first 45 minutes of the game.
With the upcoming game at Indiana on Saturday, Michigan State is hoping to reverse the fourth quarter curse with some offensive production. Mark Dantonio said at his weekly press conference that his team is addressing this issue, as they do all areas of weakness.
“Well certainly you want to score more than 28 in the fourth quarter,” Dantonio said. “We always address our areas of weakness or areas where we are falling short.”
One reason cited by Dantonio for the lack of points in the fourth quarter was the lopsided victories. In MSU’s wins against Jacksonville State, Wyoming and Eastern Michigan, the Spartans won by a combined 139 points. It was the loss at Oregon and the narrow wins against Purdue and Nebraska where the fourth quarter slump really mattered. Dantonio addressed these concerns, saying that he believes his team will continue to grow and overcome this weakness.
“Well the bottom line is do you score points in those situations and put the game out of reach in two of them and get back into the game in one of them,” Dantonio said, adding that he re-watched the fourth quarter of each of those games. “In the end, I feel like we overcame it. In the end, everything that seemingly is a weakness for you, at some point in time, strengthens you.”
Michigan State has one more road game before returning home for games against Michigan and Ohio State. First up, though, will be at Indiana this Saturday. Halfway through the season, Dantonio’s team is 5-1 and 2-0 in Big Ten play.
Bradley Allen is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Bradley Allen/Impact Sports