EAST LANSING, Mich. — This is the kind of streak Michigan State would like to see come to an end.
Already on the short end of one-, two- and three-point losses in Big Ten Conference play, the Spartans added a four-point setback — 28-24 — with Saturday’s loss to Nebraska that was the most bitter pill for coaches, players and fans.
“Tough game, very tough game, maybe one of the toughest games I’ve experienced here,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said.
The Spartan faithful had a lot to chew on, such as controversial pass interference and personal foul calls late in the fourth quarter and missed opportunities to expand a 10-point lead. Nevertheless, Michigan State is 5-5 with two games to play and bowl eligibility on the line.
“All I can tell you is that you’ve got to keep pushing,” Dantonio said. “You can’t flinch. In the end, this hurts, this hurts a lot of people. You just have to be able to look things in the eye.
“You just have to be able to keep pushing. I don’t know what else to say about it. Just keep working.”
Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi had plenty of things to say about what transpired in the final few minutes.
“Players play, coaches coach and officials try to officiate the best they can,” Narduzzi said. “There are a lot of calls I would like to take a look at.”
On the pass interference call two plays before Taylor Martinez found Jamal Turner for the winning 5-yard touchdown pass with six second remaining in the game, Narduzzi said he had a look at the play that didn’t jibe with the one made by the officials.
“I got a look at it up there,” Narduzzi said. “Didn’t look that good from up there, but who am I to judge? It didn’t look good.”
Narduzzi’s thoughts on the personal foul call that brought back a 96-yard interception return by Darqueze Dennard before Nebraska’s final two touchdowns that would have made the score 30-14 and likely sealed a victory for the Spartans?
“Talk about taking it out of the kid’s hands and putting it into someone else’s,” Narduzzi said. “It was a heck of a return by Darqueze. We got late flags 25 yards from the ball. We will see it.
“I don’t know what the problem was, but I guess you are not allowed to block on defense, you can only block on offense. I guess they saw it that way. From the booth, I didn’t see it that way.”
Dantonio took a different route to answering the same questions moments after Narduzzi provided his responses.
“I’ve said this in there before — everybody’s trying to do their best in there,” Dantonio said. “I don’t think anybody’s out for Michigan State, I don’t think anybody’s out for Nebraska. It’s an instinctive game and it’s instinctive for our officials, too.”
Instead of focusing on the things over which they had no control, Dantonio said his team will zone in on reducing the number of unforced penalties his team has been committing during the upcoming bye week before their next game Nov. 17 against Northwestern.
“We’re going to take a deep breath, then we’re going to exhale, and we’re going to get back to work,” Dantonio said. “We would if we would have won, we set our schedule either way. We’re going to make sure that our players get a chance to get away from football for a couple days.”
Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who joined the prayer circle with Nebraska running backs coach Ron Brown and about 20 Nebraska players after the game, said despite coming up short again, the Spartans continue to get better on offense.
“Having the opportunity at the end to finish it off with the offense on the field trying to run the clock off, I felt like we had it right there and in our grasp,” Maxwell said. “But it slipped away from us.”
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