September 26, 2009

'They beat us up throwing the ball'

MADISON - Michigan State coordinators Don Treadwell and Pat Narduzzi did their best to explain why their units struggled in the Big Ten opener at Wisconsin. And at the end of the day, each coach said that neither of the offense nor the defense executed the way that they thought that they might.

Michigan State's defense forced Wisconsin to punt on their first two possessions and played well for much of the first quarter. But the Spartan offense sputtered early as Kirk Cousins started cold on the first series before throwing an interception on Michigan State's second possession. That pick, the first of four turnovers by the Spartan offense, aided the Badgers in building a 7-0 lead that grew to 21-7 by halftime.

Cousin's back-up Keith Nichol made some plays with his arm and his feet during the fourth quarter as Michigan State pulled within eight points of Wisconsin in the fourth quarter, but Nichol's interception in the second quarter led to another Wisconsin touchdown and put Michigan State in a corner.

Neither quarterback played particularly well. Cousins bounced back after the initial pick and finished 17-34 for 201 yards with a pair of touchdowns, including a second-quarter pass in the corner of the end zone to Mark Dell, who made a spectacular catch. Cousins found B.J. Cunningham with a 20-yard strike that cut the score to 24-17 before Wisconsin scored pulled ahead by two touchdowns on the first play of the fourth quarterback.
Treadwell said he felt that the offense was out of sync in the first half.

"We will go back and reflect on what we had and what we were asking the kids to execute and see if there is something we need to clean up in that regard," said Treadwell. "I just didn't feel like, and I again I am in the box, but it just didn't seem like we were in sync as well as I would have anticipated that we would have been coming into a game such as this."

Treadwell said he was encouraged by the way his team was able to run the ball. Michigan State didn't run the ball a lot, as they faced a sizeable deficit for much of the game, but the Spartans did average 4.1 yards per carry and got significant production from sophomore Glenn Winston, who did also turn the ball over on a costly fumble.

"Glenn had a couple of nice runs," said Treadwell. "I am not sure about the other kids but that is something that we have to grow in and something is going to have to continue become a big part of what we do. In order to keep the other team from getting the ball we have to do a better job maintaining some drives. In the first half, there were just too many three-and-outs."

Michigan State's pass defense struggled for the third consecutive week. Dynamic tight end Garrett Graham scored three touchdowns for the Badgers and junior quarterback Scott Tolzien had strong individual performance with 243 yards passing and four touchdowns.

"Obviously we didn't play good enough to win," said Narduzzi. "Give Wisconsin a lot of credit, they played their tails off. It is running football team and they really came out and started throwing it. I really do trust our linebackers and our defensive backs in coverage and obviously I am disappointed in how they are covering. We have to get them back, and we have to get them fundamentally sound. We just have to play the pass better overall. I thought we did some good things in the run game early to stop them and force them to do some other things, throw it I guess, and then they beat us up throwing the ball."

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