EAST LANSING, Mich. — It would be easy to point to that third-down pass-interference call on Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard that allowed Nebraska to pull a win out of the fire Saturday night.
And some Spartans took that route.
Get a load of the tweet from Le’Veon Bell, who rushed for 188 yards and then to his phone: “I expected all the hate, but idc (I don’t care)…We legitimately lost ONE game this year…and that was Notre Dame! The black and white team beat us four times.”
Nose tackle Denzel Drone also tweeted in: “Thanks to the big ten referees y’all won the game once again for the opponent of MSU!!!! Y’all some bums for this one!!!”
Both tweets were quickly deleted from their accounts. Football coaches now have to worry about what social-media messages their players are sending out of frustration even more than what they might say to the media.
The Spartans’ four Big Ten losses have come by a combined 10 points, and that can grind at players and coaches. Coming close time after time and losing is painful.
But it does no good to blame the officials after committing nine penalties for 100 yards, while your opponents also got flagged nine times for 72 yards.
It’s about being accountable rather than taking the easy way out and blaming someone else.
Coach Mark Dantonio was asked what he told his players after this 28-24 loss, which came after his team had the lead, 24-14, with 14 minutes left to play.
“You can’t leave plays out on the field,” he said. “You can’t have unforced penalties.
“I feel awful for everybody – that’s including the coaches. We could have made better calls out there. I could have went for it on fourth-and-two, which I thought about doing at the end of the game.”
Quarterback Andrew Maxwell had this to say when asked about the approach his coach took in the solemn locker room: “He is absolutely right. It starts with everyone on the team looking at their individual performance and looking at plays that they could have been a little more attentive (on) their assignment or disciplined in their execution.
“Football is a game of accountability, and you can’t start looking elsewhere and blaming elsewhere for your problems. Everyone has a job, everyone has an assignment, and it’s (everyone’s) personal responsibility to do that.”
There were some blown calls by the officials, but also some blown assignments and bad plays.
The Spartans had four personal fouls in the game and three in the second quarter alone. Those were the “unforced penalties” Dantonio spoke about.
Safety Kurtis Drummond was called for a personal foul after an incomplete pass that turned a pending punt by Nebraska into a first down. The Huskers would’ve scored on the gift if Brett Maher hadn’t missed a 30-yard field goal attempt.
Then Niko Palazeti was given a personal foul for hitting a defenseless player that chopped 15 yards off what was a 40-yard run by Bell. Maxwell’s 46-yard touchdown pass to Tony Lippett overcame that flag.
However, the next two personal fouls brought about a 14-point swing in Nebraska’s favor.
After Taiwan Jones was flagged on a fair catch by Huskers returner Tim Marlowe, Nebraska scored on Martinez’s 71-yard run. And then there was the play that prompted Dantonio’s “victory is fleeting” quote.
Dennard picked off Martinez and ran over, under, around and through defenders for a 95-yard touchdown return that would’ve made it 31-14 with 10:42 to play. Only cornerback Johnny Adams was assessed a personal foul. The ball came back to the MSU 10-yard line, the Spartans punted, and six plays later, Martinez ran 35 yards to score.
“I don’t know what the problem is,” Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said when asked about that call. “But I guess you are not allowed to block on defense. 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.”
Still, Michigan State went from allowing minus-four yards in the third quarter to 214 yards in the fourth quarter. And as great as Bell was in general, he lost a third-quarter fumble and came up two yards short on the play with 1:27 left in the game that caused Dantonio to elect to punt on fourth down.
It’s about looking in the mirror rather than at a couple of bad calls.
It’s about the accountability Dantonio would rather see than some ill-fated tweets and whining.