4 Important Sequences In Loss To Sun Devils

4 Important Sequences In Loss To Sun Devils

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4 Important Sequences In Loss To Sun Devils

We’ll take time this week to break down some of the dynamics from Michigan State’s 16-13 loss to Arizona State Saturday night in Tempe. But here are 4 key sequences that might have been most impactful.

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Saturday night’s game between Michigan State and Arizona State in Tempe was close enough for either team to have won what was a hard fought battle in sweltering heat that had to have caused problems for all of the Spartans who spent the day consuming large sums of refreshments that may have exacerbated dehydration symptoms.

There are plenty of times when no matter how much we break down the nuances of a ball game, the reality is that one team was going to win regardless of how the IFs and BUTs get broken down.

Arizona State made the plays on Saturday night.

Michigan State made some plays Saturday night.

And, there were plays that Michigan State didn’t make Saturday night.

If one were to take a close look at four plays or sequences that had a very real impact on the way the game played out, these might be the four most consequential sequences:

SEQUENCE #1

Midway through the first quarter, Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke floated a beauty of a soft toss to LJ Scott as the Spartans were zeroing in on extending their 3-0 lead.

LJ took the pass, cradled it in a way that told everyone in Green and White that he had no intention of fumbling the ball, and he steamrolled his way along the sideline and, for a brief beat, it looked like he was headed for the endzone, that Michigan Sate would be up 10-0, and everyone could get on with the business of sitting and enjoying the exchange of perspiration fluids with stadium neighbors for the rest of the evening.

LJ didn’t reach the endzone.

The play wound up being a 13-yard gain that delivered the Spartans with a 1st and goal from the Sun Devil 3-yard line.

The next play was a straight handoff to LJ and he lost three yards.

Lewerke then threw a pass that was tipped and wound up being intercepted by the Sun Devils and the game changed from that point on.

If LJ lowers his head, barrels his way THROUGH the Sun Devils as he was powering his way to what wound up being the 3-yard line instead of the endzone, Michigan State wins the game comfortably.

If you wish to debate me on this, meet me in the Denver Airport at the shoeshine guy in Terminal G on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30p mt.

SEQUENCE #2

Early in the third quarter, Michigan State faced a 3rd and 10 at the Arizona State 27-yard line with the score tied 3-3.

Brian Lewerke threw a dart to Felton Davis – Davis went up a a bit and made a very nice grab for a gain of twelve yards and Michigan State had a big first down.

The Spartans had the ball now at the Arizona State 15-yard line and the Lewerke-to-Felton connection on that 3rd and 10 felt like it was a play that was going to spring the Spartans loose and get the ball into the endzone eventually.

After a 1-yard gain on a run by Lewerke, and a 7-yard gain on a nice run by freshman Jalen Nailor, Michigan State had 3rd and 2 from the Arizona State 7-yard line.

Connor Heyward was stopped for a loss of 3 yards on 3rd down and Matt Coghlin then converted on a 28-yard field goal.

Michigan State had taken the lead, 6-3, but it sure did feel like an opportunity was lost.

SEQUENCE #3

With Michigan State leading 6-3 with five minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, Arizona State faced a crucial 3rd and 10 from its own 34 yard line.

Michigan State appeared to be taking some control of the game.

Sun Devil quarterback Manny Wilkins was pressured on one of the few occasions when the Spartans really caused chaos behind the line.

Tre Person nailed Wilkins and the ball came loose.

Michigan State’s Raequan Williams – all 6’4″ and 295 pounds of him – sort of tried awkwardly to scoop the ball up.

It’s not fair to say that Williams made a specific attempt to pick up the ball and run with it – it was an awkward situation, the ball was sort of bouncing around, and it wasn’t exactly sitting there for him to simply pounce on as some have suggested.

Williams is a massive human being and if I was that big and had a weirdly shaped ball dribbling around underneath me like that with a scrum of dudes all trying to get the thing, I’d have no chance in securing the ball.

The experts on the Twitter have all said that he should have simply fallen on the ball.

I don’t think a lot of those experts on the Twitter have brains.

Some of them might – but a lot of them don’t.

Still, if Williams manages to corral that loose football that the Spartan defense jarred loose, there’s a damn good chance that Michigan State does something with the ball since the Spartans would have started right around the ASU 30-yard line.

Instead, Manny Wilkins made one of the most underrated plays of the night when he fell on the ball and allowed the Sun Devils to punt.

The Spartans did go on to score on the following possession – but might there have been a different impact had that fumble allowed Michigan State to barrel into the endzone either on the fumble or a few plays right after it?

SEQUENCE #4

With just under twelve minutes left in the game, Michigan State was holding on to a 13-6 lead.

And the Spartans were putting together what started to feel like a gut-punch of a drive.

After six plays, Michigan State had moved the ball out to its own 42 yard line – but the drive stalled after two first downs.

Jake Hartbarger went back to punt.

Up until this point, Hartbarger was having a typically good night of booting the ball.

Officially, Hartbarger finished the night with sensational stats – four punts for  a total 214 yards, a 53.5 yard average and a long of 74.

The Sun Devils got enough pressure on Hartbarger and the punt was blocked enough to yield a 20-yarder from Hartbarger that gave the Sun Devils the ball at their own 43-yard line.

If the punt isn’t blocked, Hartbarger still would have been roughed by Arizona State and Michigan State would have had a first down just past midfield with a ton of momentum and the chance to put the game away.

Hartbarger was injured on the play – and, obviously, we hope he’s okay.

None of these individual plays won or lost the game.

Again, Arizona State made the plays to win the game.

But if any of these sequences had gone slightly a wee bit just a touch not totally but only sort of and kind of but not even completely but still enough differently, the game probably would have ended with a slightly different result.

Instead, Michigan State has to tip its cap to the Sun Devils.

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