Dandron: With win 110 looming, MSU falters and loses to Arizona State

Joe Dandron, Sports Director

EAST LANSING, Michigan – With all the focus on Mark Dantonio and the possibility of him surpassing Duffy Daugherty, Arizona State marched in to East Lansing on Saturday and showed fans and critics alike that MSU’s 51-17 win over Western Michigan last weekend may have been a mirage.

“A lot of things going on, some things we can control, some things we can’t control,” said Dantonio following the 10-7 loss. “Too many missed opportunities, when you look at it – just missed opportunities.”

A late penalty flag for too many men on the field, forcing Coghlin to stroll back out onto the field, only to miss wide left as Arizona State snuck out of East Lansing on Saturday with a 10-7 victory.

“There was no foul, then they reviewed it again,” said Dantonio. “So I’m not sure.”

Despite poor play from the offense as a whole, it was the special teams – with 12 men on the field as Matt Coghlin made the first of two field goal attempts in the last eleven seconds – that cost the Spartans a win.

“Initially we were going to take a shot to the endzone, the clock was gonna run, we had no more timeouts, the clock was gonna run, so we spiked it since the 40 second clock was running,” said Dantonio. “Because if we catch the ball, we catch the ball and we’re not in the endzone the game is probably over, lineup and kick it.”

ASU shocked the Spartans at home, down 7-3 late in the ball game, Eno Benjamin punched in a one-yard rushing touchdown to show MSU that they still may have some questions to answer after being held scoreless in the first half that saw MSU down 3-0. 

Offense struggles, penalties hurt MSU

It was blatantly obvious that the offense was struggling. An offensive line that saw both left guard Luke Campbell and left tackle Kevin Jarvis knocked out due to injury contributed, but if you are the MSU offense and Dantonio – you cannot expect to defeat a team without scoring more than one touchdown.

Offense aside, 10 penalties for 91 yards obviously hurt a team that seemingly fixed the issue after struggling in week one against Tulsa.

“It’s tough to win a game scoring only one touchdown,” said Dantonio.

But the demons of that struggle-filled game in week one reared their heads as MSU saw big play after big play wiped away by inconsistency and blunders – that eventually cost the Spartans a game.

“I think guys were in a good mood, coming off a good win,” said Lewerke. “Maybe we got to lackadaisical.”

But I digress, overcoming penalties, mistakes and injuries are a part of the game. Something that the team will have to address if they want to walk into Evansville next week when the team opens up Big Ten play next week.

Dantonio still searching for win 110

As Elijah Collins scampered into the end zone for a six-yard touchdown late in the game, it felt that the stars were being perfectly aligned for Dantonio to end his tie with Duffy Daugherty and become the winningest coach in MSU football history. 

Then it seemed, when the offense suddenly became the cure to MSU’s problems, the defense that so often bailed the Spartans out last year and against Tulsa faltered.

“We had breakdowns on defense, or penalties, whatever it may be,” said senior safety David Dowell on loss. “They are all things we can clean up man, (mistakes) are gonna hurts us as a team and it can hurt us from winning games.”

Despite pinning back Arizona State on their own 25 yard line, with a defense that is heralded as one of the best in the 13-year tenure of Dantonio, it was hard to imagine what transpired soon after.

Jayden Daniels, the true freshman quarterback for ASU – completing his first four passes of the drive for five, five, 40, and two yards – drove down through the heart of the defense before setting up star running back Eno Benjamin for the one-yard touchdown with just under a minute to play in the game.

“Inside we lost our footing, and he (Daniels) took advantage, we knew that coming in that he was gonna be a good quarterback at making plays last,” said Raequan Williams after the game. “We got to play a little better.”

It almost didn’t feel right given what was on the line, although the Spartans played poorly enough to deserve losing and the Sun Devils stepped up in the biggest way anyone could have expected them to. 

The defense of MSU played well when you look at the numbers. But just not being able to complete that final drive would prove to be the bane of a defense that didn’t even give up 200 yards. 

I sat watching, questionable flags tossed late, but was still unsurprised by what happened in front of me because that ASU came to play – even if MSU did not.

Twitter: @JosephDandronMI

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