DETROIT - There is no question that Michigan State's last second loss to Iowa on Saturday night was heartbreaking.
MSU played even with the Hawkeyes for three quarters and then, in what seemed destined to become a play that would go down in the annals of Spartan history, perfectly executed the 'old hook-and-ladder - hitting tight end Charlie Gantt who lateraled to Blair White, resulting in a big MSU gain.
Just two plays later sophomore quarterback Kirk Cousins hit White in the end zone to give MSU what seemed like a knockout blow in a heavyweight fight.
Instead, the Hawkeyes responded, engineered a two-minute drill to perfection, culminating in Ricky Stanzi's two-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt snatching away MSU's Big Ten title hopes and putting a dent in their bowl plans.
The last gasp play took the collective wind out of the MSU crowd that was on the verge of frenzied celebration.
So as is human nature, someone has to be at fault, right? Someone has to be the scapegoat, correct?
Some are pointing the finger at defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi for "failing to blitz", "not playing the defense he played for three quarters" "not knowing what the last-second play was going to be" since Iowa supposedly "tipped it off by moving the tight end to clear out the middle."
Other blame corner Chris L. Rucker for supposedly "not taking away the slant."
Coulda, woulda, shoulda.
Stop it. The blame game is ridiculous.
The bottom line is the Spartans are experiencing the growing pains that inevitably come when a program that has been down, rises, becomes a solid bowl team, and then tries to make the move from the middle of the pack, to become one of the elite teams in the conference.
They are contending, but have yet to get over the hump. Rather than complaining and fault-finding, enjoy the ride, because under Coach Mark Dantonio and his staff, they are going to get there.
Its just a matter of time.
Enough already with the blame game. Narduzzi has done a solid job with the players he has on the defensive unit. Had he dropped seven into coverage and Stanzi with extra time, completed the pass, the cry would have been "why didn't he blitz?"
Blaming Rucker for playing the defense that was called is also counter-productive. The kid played a solid game and had the highly questionable defensive holding call not been made, everyone would be talking about what a great game he played.
There's no need for a scapegoat. Great teams make great plays and the Hawkeyes (8-0 #6 in the BCS standings) appear on the verge of one of those magical seasons that happen for teams every so often.
Tip your hat to the Hawks and move on.
MSU has the next four weeks to make its own destiny. Win all four (finish 8-4) against Minnesota, Western Michigan, Purdue and Penn State and they'll probably end up in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, FL.
Win three of the four (finish 7-5) and its likely off to the Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX) Two of four (finish 6-6) and it'll be either the Insight Bowl (Tempe, AZ) or the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl (Detroit, MI).
Win one or none and they'll stay home. And if that happens, that's when some valid second-guessing can begin in earnest.