September 29, 2007
The Spartans came into Madison on a mission. They wanted to move their record to 5-0 and upset the team many thought would win the Big Ten. For the record I predicted OSU. The day didn’t start well when Detroit Country Day LB Kenny Demens picked UM over MSU to play football and it ended on a worse note.
The Spartans came out and let the Badgers convert on two 3rd and 7 plays on their first drive that allowed them to take the lead. The Spartans had the answer back however and contrary to many predictions (mine included) the first half evolved into an offensive assault. The Spartans had 325 yards of offense in the first half compared to the Badgers 381.
Freshman Chris L. Rucker got ejected from the game for an altercation with the Badgers Marcus Randle El. Although Rucker clearly didn’t start the altercation, when he returned a Randle El punch, both began to attack the others head similar to a heavyweight fight. T.J. Williams replaced him and on his second play picked off Badger QB Tyler Donovan. The Spartans couldn’t convert however after a Brian Hoyer fumble when he dropped back to pass and failed to protect the ball and held it too low allowing Wisconsin to knock it out of his hands and recover with 3:20 to go in the second quarter and the ball at the MSU 24.
The Badgers were able to get a field goal after an impressive hold by the Spartans and things got real interesting. The Spartans began their final drive of the half at their own 18 and moved the ball nicely. The coaching staff however made it’s second big mistake in two weeks (in my opinion) when facing a 3rd and 10 with 1:02 in the half and the ball at the MSU 45 they took a timeout? I asked Dantonio about it after the game, but he couldn’t remember why they did it. They failed to get the first down and the extra time allowed the Badgers to move down the field for another field goal and the 27-21 halftime lead. Those were three critical points that came back to haunt the Spartans when this was all said and done at the end of the game.
Jehuu Caulcrick had two TD scores in the first half and 51 yards of rushing on 9 carries. Javon Ringer had 72 yards on 7 carries both clearly able to have success against the once feared Badger D. The Spartans had one turnover in the first half and one penalty. On the play that Rucker was ejected from, there was a personal foul called on him, but an offsetting one on the Badgers negated it.
The Spartans came out in the second half and although they were obviously tired, they kept fighting. They got to within three on an amazing TD catch by Mark Dell when he somehow was able to contort his body shift and catch the ball and get his feet down. Then with 12:14 left in the 4th quarter they tied the Badgers at 34 with a Swenson 35-yard FG after a Travis Key interception. Finally MSU had the momentum!
The momentum however was not to last. The Spartans had the Badgers facing a 3rd and 14 at their own 27 and when Donovan’s pass fell incomplete, Kellen Davis got an irresponsible personal foul for hitting the QB clearly after he had thrown it and KD took two steps. The penalty gave the Badgers the ball at their own 42 and a first down. More importantly it gave them the momentum. MSU was unable to stop the Badgers from that point on and clearly the Spartans hopes faded. Otis Wiley made a poor choice and got a personal foul, without question hitting a Wisconsin offensive player when the play was done. This drive was clearly reminiscent of the JLS years as the Spartans had stopped the Badgers but kept them alive and driving with poor personal fouls and defensive holding penalties. The Badgers eventually moved all the way for the FG moving Wisconsin to a 37-34 lead.
MSU moved the ball to the Wisconsin 36 and were facing a 3rd and 7. Strangely they ran the ball up the middle with Ringer that netted them only one yard and Swenson missed a 53- yard field goal attempt giving the Badgers essentially the ball and the win. Dantonio was unsure if Hoyer had checked out a screen pass, but Hoyer confirmed it was a running play all the way.
The frustrating thing is not that MSU lost today. This team has overachieved this season and has a lot of football ahead. What hurts is that they cost themselves a ball game. We all know that this program was not going to be fixed in a season, but the timeout near the end of the first half, personal fouls and questionable play calls (3rd and 7 and running Ringer up the middle) cost the Spartans today.
Now certainly Dantonio has the Spartans going in the right direction, but chances to beat a top ten team at their house don’t come often and leaving Camp Randall tonight you clearly leave without the assurance that you got beat, but rather in the words of Jonal Saint-Dic after the game, “We gave them one.”
Simply put, the defense got shredded today though. P.J. Hill ran all over them for 162 yards in the game and WR Travis Beckum had 10 catches for 132 yards. The Spartans let QB Tyler Donovan look like another Wisconsin QB named Favre by completing 71% of his passes (17 of 24) for 247 yards and two TD scores.
The poor timeout let Wisconsin get three and the Spartans lost by three. On the Wisconsin go ahead drive the Spartans had three penalties (two personal fouls and one defensive holding) that let the Badgers keep driving and it cost the Spartan Nation a chance to win. Who knows if they would have, but the chance was lost!
This is not in any way a doom and gloom scenario. It was a loss. It also was a real test and measuring stick and what the Spartans learned is that they can play with anyone, and they can beat themselves.
After the post game prayer at the 50-yard line, Captain Travis Key called all of the team back to remind them that this was not last year. He told them that they won’t collapse. I believe him, and if you had been in the post game locker room you would have also. The Spartan Nation is disappointed, but the Spartan Nation learned a lot. Unlike last year, they will learn from it and they will go bowling at the end of the year. I can live for that in year one of rebuilding. I couldn’t in year five, but it isn’t year five. One thing is certain. This team never quit and this team played hard to the end.
There was over 1000 yards of combined offensive yardage in the game, and that was a shocker to everyone.
I am disappointed in the personal fouls. I am disappointed in the poor timeout and running Ringer up the middle on a 3rd and 7. I am also very excited about the direction of this program and the fight of these Spartans.
This one hurt no doubt. This one also showed us a lot of what we are doing right. Disappointment is the word to describe this, but with Northwestern coming in Saturday, I think that those Cats are walking into a hungry group of Spartans and MSU will rebound.
I want to give props to the Badger fans. I have been around football my entire life. I go to NFL and college games all the time and I saw something I had never seen. At the end of the game as the Spartans walked off, clearly disappointed, they gave them a standing ovation. It was the classiest move I have ever seen and although I hate to lose, I certainly can at least stomach it with classy fans like that. Maybe they can teach Bo Ryan about what that means. My hats off to the Badger faithful for that!