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Thursday, January 1, 2009
Missed chances in first half doom Spartans


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan State had the lead at halftime, but the Spartans didn't have the momentum they needed in the Capital One Bowl against No. 15 Georgia.

 
 Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
 The Georgia defense never allowed Javon Ringer to get on track.

A more talented but seemingly disinterested Georgia team gave No. 18 Michigan State numerous opportunities to take control of the game. The Spartans ran 26 plays in Bulldogs territory in the opening half but produced only six points. That's nowhere near good enough. Michigan State easily could have been ahead by double digits.

The missed opportunities wound up costing the Spartans in a 24-12 loss.

Credit Georgia's much-maligned defense for shutting down Spartans star Javon Ringer (47 yards) and putting quarterback Brian Hoyer under constant duress. The game was won at the line of scrimmage, and Georgia's speed in the defensive front proved to be the difference. Michigan State (9-4) needed a strong performance from its offensive line to spring Ringer, and it didn't get one.

In many ways, the Capital One Bowl mirrored another near miss by a Big Ten team. Like Michigan State, Northwestern dominated the first half against Missouri in the Alamo Bowl but found itself tied at the break because of a few miscues. The Wildcats went on to lose.

Put bluntly, this year's bowl matchups were terrible for the Big Ten, but both Michigan State and Northwestern had opportunities for upsets and neither team could convert.

Credit Michigan State coordinator Pat Narduzzi and a defense that came to play today. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford looked bewildered during the first half, and the Spartans frustrated Bulldogs star Knowshon Moreno.

Georgia Vs. Big Ten in Bowls
BowlOpponentResult
2009 Capital One Michigan St. W, 24-12
2004 Outback Wisconsin W, 24-21
2003 Capital One Purdue W, 34-27
1999 Outback Purdue W, 28-25
1997 Outback Wisconsin W, 33-6
1992 Citrus Ohio St. W, 21-14
1988 Gator Michigan St. W, 34-27
Note: Georgia is 1-2 vs. Big Ten teams in regular-season games.

With a bigger lead entering the third quarter, Michigan State's defense might have continued to surge. But Stafford got things together and made several brilliant throws to rally his team. By the time Michigan State got in the end zone, Georgia's talent-stocked offense was rolling along.

Despite the loss, Michigan State made major strides this season and head coach Mark Dantonio got everything out of his players. The program is on the upswing.

The Spartans must make upgrades throughout their offense -- quarterback, wide receiver, line -- and find a way to replace Ringer's production. They really could have used a game-changer like Devin Thomas today. The defense loses only three starters and should be much stronger in 2009 behind Greg Jones and Trevor Anderson.

The Big Ten falls to 1-4 in bowl games and remains on pace for the worst postseason in its history. Iowa looked dominant and both Michigan State and Northwestern had bright spots in defeat, but the Big Ten desperately needs a BCS win from Penn State or Ohio State.