Michigan State has been hurt all season by their inability to stop opponents passing attack and that weakness was exploited by the Minnesota Golden Gophers in their 42-34 win over the Spartans.
Minnesota ranked near the bottom of the conference in passing before meeting up with the Spartans who allowed 416 yards through the air and five touchdowns and that was without the Gophers best receiver, Eric Decker, who's season is over following a freak foot injury.
The weakness is puzzling, since the Spartans boast five seniors, all who have played well in the past in their playing group. But MSU couldn't cover Gophers receiver Nick Tow-Arnett who caught eight balls for 81 yards, averaging 10.1 yards per catch and two touchdowns.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said the Spartans were "outcoached" and that the Gophers schematically defeated the Spartans.
"We did not play the deep ball well enough and (Minnesota's) deep plays ran away from our corner to the back half of the field. What they did schematically was able to keep the front-side safety from helping out," he said.
"Look at the defensive side of the ball, we had no consistency getting off the field and gave up too many big plays," he said.
Adding insult to injury, Michigan State hung around the entire game and were set to get the
ball back for one last shot to tie the game with about a minute left, but those hopes were dashed when Kendell Davis-Clark was flagged for roughing the kicker, giving the ball back to Minnesota and
ending the Spartans hopes.
Statistically, Rucker had the best game of the group with six tackles and one pass defended. Marcus Hyde and backup Ashton Henderson both added four tackles but neither broke up a pass.
One wonders what the playing group would look like if former Bay City Central star Trenton Robinson, who was beginning to emerge, was available.
He was not dressed for this game and hasn't played since he tweaked his ankle on a kickoff return two weeks ago against Northwestern. MSU also lost starting safety Danny Fortener who was dinged up on a friendly fire hit by linebacker Brandon Denson.
It will be interesting to see if young players like sophomore corner Johnnie Adams get more playing time in these last three games. Seniors Jeremy Ware, Ross Weaver, Fortener reserve Ashton Henderson and Davis-Clark all will be lost to graduation.
Two juniors, strong safety Hyde will return along with Rucker, but there will be an influx of new blood from redshirt freshman Brynden Trawick, true freshman safety Jairus Jones of Tampa, FL and incoming freshmen-to-be Mylan Hicks of Detroit Renaissance and Kurtis Drummond of Hubbard, OH.