Yellow flags knock Spartans out in Big Ten

Photo Credit: DETROITER DION Sims (# 80) leaps to corral a pass. – Dan Graschuck photo

EAST LANSING – Just think the Michigan State Spartans came into the 2012 college football campaign with a noteworthy 14 games home winning streak.

They won the Legends Division and played in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis last season and coming into this season the Spartans were by all accounts the team to beat in the Big Ten.

Well none of that was meant to be. All the close games that the Spartans have won over the past three years have turned around and they are losing them now.

At East Lansing the Spartans lost yet another close contest to Nebraska that they should have won. The 28-24 last-second loss to Nebraska was tainted with two controversial fourth-quarter penalties: a personal foul call that negated an MSU interception returned for a touchdown and a pass interference call in the end zone that set up the Cornhuskers’ game-winning score with 6 seconds remaining.

“This was a tough game,” exclaimed MSU coach Mark Dantonio in the post game press conference. “It was one of the toughest losses I’ve had here. We just have to keep pushing and we cannot flinch. Sure a lot of Spartan fans are hurting, as well as the players.

“We had yet another opportunity to win a game, but we came up short. We have a week off now and we are going to exhale, give the players a couple days off and come right back and get to work.”

Michigan State’s disappointing 2012 season goes on and on and on. Dreams of a Big Ten Championships and a Rose Bowl berth, has quickly turned simply into a quest for bowl eligibility. At 5-5, the Spartans are one win away from a bowl with only two games to play.

This latest loss is a microcosm of the entire season for MSU. All six of their conference games have ended as one score contest; however, the Spartans have finished on the losing end four-of-six times.

It’s not that the Spartans have forgotten how to win close games, it’s that its been much more of a coin flip this year. Sure that is of little comfort and consolation. Now the Spartans are aiming for their sixth straight bowl game; an off the radar one, but a bowl game nevertheless.

“We still have a lot of camaraderie in the locker room, we still have some goals in front of us, and, we have not lost out collective spirit,” said former Detroit Crockett star Tony Lippett, and now a junior receiver.

Sure it was a terrible call by the officials in the game’s last seconds that gave Nebraska field position to score the game winning touchdown. The fact of the matter is MSU defensive back Darqueze Dennard never should have been called for interference on Kenny Bell. It was a bad call.

He had wonderful technique, turned toward the ball, and did nothing illegal with his hands. Yet there was the flag and with it MSU suffered yet another heart breaking loss.

At worse Nebraska should have been kicking a 37-yard field goal on the next play to tie MSU and send the game to overtime. Instead, Nebraska won two plays later.

And what was that call was on Johnny Adams when Dennard appeared to ice the game with a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown? A replay of the play shows Adams delivering what appears to be a clean block to a Nebraska player.

Dantonio would not talk about the controversial calls, but defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi tried but couldn’t quite contain his anger. “I guess you’re not allowed to block on defense,” he said about Adams. “You can only block on offense. Players play. Coaches coach. Officials try to officiate the best they can. I guess they saw it that way. From the booth, I didn’t see it that way.”


Leland Stein can be reached at or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII

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