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Things got ugly early on in Saturday’s game at Washington for Michigan State. After quickly falling behind by double-digits, the game was never really within striking distance for the Spartans despite outscoring the Huskies in the second half. The tough loss has stuck with MSU fans and is causing them to reevaluate expectations.
The clear takeaway from the misleadingly close 39-28 loss was how bad the Spartans’ secondary looked against a talented passing offense. Michael Penix Jr. threw for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns before the offense went conservative late in the game. While there was plenty of blame to go around, fans clearly found their target.
Despite what Mel Tucker said in his weekly press conference, nearly three-fourths of fans believe the biggest issue was scheme and coaching, with players being out of place against the Washington attack. Only 18 percent of fans put the blame primarily on the players themselves.
If the blame falls on the coaching staff and the scheme, fans aren’t sure if any improvements should be expected. Even if fifth-year safety Xavier Henderson can return to full speed, it’s not clear that the secondary will get much better.
A slight majority of fans think this year’s defensive secondary is beyond repair.
On the other side of the ball, statistics again don’t seem to tell the whole story. For the third week in a row, there are big questions on offense even after finding some success scoring.
Statistically, quarterback Payton Thorne had his best game of the season. Thorne threw three touchdowns and completed more passes than he had even attempted in either of the two previous games, connecting on 71 percent of his attempts. But most of that came late when Washington had a comfortable lead.
The running game was almost non-existent, due to a lack of early success and a need to score quickly as the game went on, but also due to the struggles of the offensive line. As a team, Michigan State ran for only 42 yards, with Thorne finishing as the second leading rusher. Jalen Berger led the team with just 27 yards.
That all led to a majority of fans saying they weren’t satisfied with the offensive performance.
This all came in the first real test Michigan State faced this season, although some among us may have called attention to the belief that the road trip to Seattle was a tougher game than most fans were expecting. The season only gets harder now in terms of the goals left ahead for MSU as the Big Ten schedule gets started.
At the beginning of the season, fans said they expected Michigan State to finish second in the Big Ten East and get 10 wins on the season. Without getting into specifics, Spartans fans said they have lowered their expectations following the Washington loss.
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