Oct. 13, 2012
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State defense was one drive away from closing out Iowa and reestablishing itself as a decisive force in the Big Ten.
Leading 13-6 with about five minutes remaining in regulation, the Spartans got a break when the Hawkeyes were penalized 15 yards for clipping and forced to replay first down from their own 18.
However, Vandenberg then converted a second-and-26 situation into a first down with a 35-yard pass to wideout Keenan Davis. And two plays later, on third-and-6 at the MSU 45, Weisman went off left tackle for 37 yards up the left sideline.
Then, on third-and-goal-to-go, Weisman sent the game into overtime with a 5-yard blast up the middle and the Spartans eventually lost, 19-16, in double overtime. The Spartans also lost to Ohio State after failing to prevent a late, field-length drive.
"I'm not sure where our field end got lined up, but I think he might have got lined up wrong and I'm not sure how (Weisman) got outside," defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. "I probably should have made a different call because they do have a tendency to run the ball, so put that on me.
"There's no doubt about it, in the fourth quarter we've got to finish it defensively. They shouldn't have scored on that last drive. We had opportunities to get off the field and win it on defense and didn't get the job done."
Outside linebacker Denicos Allen came out of his best game of season understanding what the Spartans could have done differently to win, while at the same time confused over why they didn't take place like they did in previous seasons.
"We know we're a young team and last year, it just seems like things went our way," Allen said. "I don't think that's the case this year. We have to really work for every single thing we get this year.
"We can't afford to make the mistakes this year like we did last year."
The Spartans momentarily appeared to be returning to the ways of the recent past when they were third in the league in turnover margin. On the first series of the game, Allen came up with his first career interception to set up MSU's first score, a 14-yard Le'Veon Bell touchdown run.
And prior to its final drive of the fourth quarter, Iowa had 169 total yards and 67 rushing yards on the rain-slickened Spartan Stadium field.
It's almost as though the breaks MSU enjoyed while compiling the first back-to-back 11-win seasons in school history are evening out.
"It's definitely a play or two (here and there)," Allen said. "We had multiple dropped picks today, missed tackles, misalignment and just little things. Like Coach Duze always says, if it's not multiple people, it's one person every play that's probably out of position and that's what happened when they get big runs on us.
"You definitely look back at the last two seasons and you had such an appreciation for it and reminisce about how those were good times," said Allen, who had a team- and career-high 13 tackles. "This year, it's more of a gut-check season. We just need to finish up strong."
On two occasions, the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Allen stood the bigger Weisman (6-0, 225) at the line of scrimmage for no gain, but he couldn't get to the hole in time to stop the touchdown because he was leg-whipped by an Iowa lineman.
"He took out my leg and I couldn't really change directions and his (Weisman)," Allen said. "He whipped my thigh real bad and swung my body around."
Allen said he felt like he met the challenge of the coaches who said they were looking for someone to be a difference-maker.
"I didn't do that much different; I just had an extra drive for this game," he said. "You go out and make a lot of game-changing plays and when you come out with a loss, you want to feel like it's all for nothing.
"But you know that you made a difference in the game. We've just got to execute the plays that we were in position to make, but didn't make."
"There's not a bunch of guys playing bad out there," he said. "We've just got to make plays in the fourth quarter."