In­ef­fec­tive of­fense weighs down Michi­gan State

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - By Bill Rabi­nowitz bra­bi­nowitz@dis­patch.com @brdis­patch

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michi­gan State coach Mark Dan­to­nio was forced to re­cite from a fa­mil­iar script af­ter a 26-6 loss Satur­day to Ohio State.

His de­fense played more than well enough to win, but Michi­gan State’s in­jury­de­pleted of­fense couldn’t take ad­van­tage of its op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“My mes­sage to my foot­ball team is, ‘Don’t start point­ing fin­gers. Make sure we’re all ac­count­able in this,’” Dan­to­nio said. “There are things we can do bet­ter, whether it’s of­fense or de­fense.”

Michi­gan State, ranked 18th in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off rank­ings, fell to 6-4 over­all and 4-3 in the Big Ten.

Quar­ter­back Brian Lew­erke started the game but he is fight­ing a shoul­der in­jury and was in­ef­fec­tive. Dan­to­nio re­placed him with Rocky Lom­bardi for the fi­nal drive of the first half, and Lom­bardi di­rected a 49-yard drive that re­sulted in a field goal.

“I know I can’t make some throws that I want to with how my arm is right now,” Lew­erke said. “(I un­der­stand) just try­ing to give Rocky a chance be­cause his arm is a lot stronger and ready to go.”

In the third quar­ter, Lom­bardi had a 47-yard run and added a 12-yarder to move the ball to the Ohio State 27-yard line. Dan­to­nio then tried one of the gim­mick plays for which he’s known. Re­ceiver Cody White found Matt Sokol open in the end zone for an ap­par­ent touch­down, but it was wiped out be­cause of an inel­i­gi­ble line­man down­field.

“It would have been a big mo­men­tum-changer,” Dan­to­nio said. “I think it was the right time to call a trick play. They hadn’t read it and some­times they work and some­times they don’t.”

Michi­gan State set­tled for a field goal, but the Spar­tans wouldn’t come close to scor­ing again. Lom­bardi ceased to be ef­fec­tive, and Dan­to­nio re­placed him with Lew­erke. Lom­bardi fin­ished 7 of 20 for 92 yards. Lew­erke was 11 of 28 for 128 yards and an in­ter­cep­tion.

Michi­gan State’s run­ning game was even worse. Its run­ning backs gained only 5 yards in six car­ries.

The Spar­tans de­fense mostly did its part, though it faded in the fourth quar­ter as the Buck­eyes took con­trol.

“It’s re­ally frus­trat­ing,” Lom­bardi said, “be­cause the de­fense was play­ing fan­tas­tic and you can’t win a game just scor­ing six points.”

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