Spartans’ disappointing season ends in bowl loss to Oregon

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Spartans’ disappointing season ends in bowl loss to Oregon

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After a rather disappointing season that saw them finish fourth in the Big Ten East, Michigan State traveled to Santa Clara to take on Oregon in the Redbox Bowl. The Ducks were led this season by junior Justin Herbert, who was the top quarterback prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft until he announced that he would be returning for his senior year. Herbert was the key factor for Oregon ahead of the bowl game as they faced the Spartans’ top rush defense in the country.

Both teams opened the game going three-and-out, including three straight incompletions from Herbert on Oregon’s opening drive. Neither team was able to make it past midfield until the Spartans did late in the first quarter, which ended scoreless 0-0.

The Spartans began the second quarter on the edge of the red zone, but a bobbled snap by quarterback Brian Lewerke led to an attempted throw away that was intercepted by Oregon. On the ensuing drive, Herbert sent a third down pass into the endzone that was dropped by his top receiver Dillon Mitchell, forcing the Ducks to punt despite starting with good field position.

Michigan State’s offensive woes continued into the Redbox bowl, as three of their first five drives went for three-and-out and accounted for two yards or less. The Spartans’ second drive of the second quarter earned them field goal position despite LJ Scott pulling up with a hamstring injury and a self-recovered fumble by Connor Heyward, but an incomplete pass on fourth-and-1 kept the game at 0-0.

After Michigan State’s defense was able to force another three-and-out by Oregon, Lewerke completed four straight passes to bring the Spartans past midfield, but were still forced to punt for the fifth time in the first half to end the second quarter scoreless.

Michigan State came back onto the field in Levi’s Stadium more impressively than they did in the first half. Their opening second half drive was their longest, traveling 64 yards, which set up kicker Matt Coghlin for a 34-yard field goal to give the Spartan’s the first points of the game, 3-0. Oregon was unable to answer on their two following drives and Coghlin was able to make another field goal from 34 yards to extend the Spartans’ lead to 6-0.

An injury to All-American defensive end Kenny Willekes gave the Ducks some hope for running the ball in the fourth quarter. Oregon was able to get on the board after a string of completions by Herbert and runs by Travis Dye, capped off by a 28-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to Mitchell to give Oregon a 7-6 lead. Michigan State’s ensuing drive brought them into Oregon territory, but they were held to another field goal attempt. The wind in Santa Clara caused Coghlin’s 50-yard attempt to veer too far left and the Spartans found themselves still trailing with less than nine minutes to go in the game.

A poorly executed fake field goal by Oregon gave Michigan State the ball on their own 46-yard line with 6:31 left in the game. The Spartans were able to break into Oregon territory, but were short of the red zone and forced into another 50-yard field goal attempt for Coghlin. During Coghlin’s run-up, Lewerke was unable to handle the snap and was tackled trying to find an open receiver for a turnover on downs. Michigan State regained the ball with 1:12 left and three quick plays left them with a fourth-and-12 on their own 40-yard line. A last-gasp throw from Lewerke fell out of Cody White’s fingertips and gave Oregon the 7-6 victory in the Redbox Bowl. Oregon’s seven points is their fewest in a win since 1992.

Michigan State finishes the season with a 7-6 record and failed to score a touchdown in three of their final four games. Their 2019 recruiting class includes one five-star, one four-star and 16 three-star recruits.