Head coach Mark Dantonio volunteered to accept blame on Tuesday morning for becoming "impatient" and calling for a no-huddle offense.
After practice on Tuesday, sophomore right tackle Skyler Burkland and wide receiver Bennie Fowler wanted a piece of the blame. Both were in agreement on one thing: don't direct blame toward quarterback Andrew Maxwell.
"Maxwell is playing great," Fowler said. "We took a hit against Notre Dame. Most of the blame should come from the receiver group. We had plays, we just didn't make them. I missed a couple of balls, maybe somebody else dropped a couple of passes. Maxwell is taking too much of the heat. You can put some of the heat on me. He is playing fine. I'm proud of the way he is playing."
Michigan State allowed four sacks and nine quarterback hits. Two of those sacks were the fault of RB protection and the QB not changing protection properly. But Burkland, who was responsible for no sacks, one QB hit, and one hold on Saturday, defended Maxwell during interviews after practice on Tuesday.
"We're tired of everyone saying it's a bad ball by Maxwell and all that," Burkland said. "It's not him. It starts with us right here."
Although Fowler dropped a potential TD catch in the first quarter against Notre Dame, the play caused the Irish to change the way they played MSU's wide receivers.
Fowler beat true freshman CB KeiVarae Russell down the sideline in getting open for the pass. Russell hustled to get a hand in the catching zone, but Fowler should have finished the play, tied the score at 7-7, and possibly altered the tone of what would become a defensive struggle for 55 minutes.
But that was the last time Fowler faced press man-to-man for the rest of the night.
Notre Dame realized midway through the first half that the Irish could contain the Spartan running attack with the standard seven, and get heat on the QB with the standard four. This allowed ND to keep two safeties back in cover-two and populate the passing lanes with tighter windows for Maxwell and the Spartan receivers.
"After the drop that I had in the end zone, they kind of backed off," Fowler said. "I had beat their corner and then they pretty much backed off all game and they didn't blitz much and their corners backed off and they played a ton of cover-two. After that, there wasn't really much opportunity to throw the ball downfield. When they are deep like that, Andrew is going to need some time (to throw). If they are in his face, it's hard to find those tight windows."
How He Saw It
Fowler (6-1, 218, Jr., Bloomfield, Mich/Detroit Country Day) stuck his chin out and criticized himself for two dropped passes during interviews following Saturday's loss to Notre Dame. He didn't hide from media, questions or blame.
Tuesday marked the first time he was able to comment on the dropped TD pass since seeing game film.
What did he see when he watched it again?
"I saw that I was able to get open, run past the DB, and the ball was in my hands, a perfect ball by Maxwell, and as I'm coming down with the ball I took my eyes off of it," Fowler said. "I didn't look it all the way in, just got lazy with it, and the ball slipped right out."
Dantonio Peers Over O-Line
Dantonio customarily spends practice with defensive players, especially defensive backs, and primarily safeties. But during Tuesday's practice, the first padded practice since Saturday's loss to Notre Dame, Dantonio trekked over to the offensive line part of the practice field and watched the enigmatic group up close.
"Today, he was with us a lot," Burkland said. "We all noticed that, like, 'Coach D is up here with us.'
"He just watched us because he knows everyone is on us, the offensive line and what happened with Maxwell. Him getting over there with us, he feels that we have to make sure we are more physical as a unit, and more on it, and count on each other and trust each other and get out there and keep getting better."
"We gave up four sacks and nine QB hits. That's way too much and it makes me mad just talking about it and thinking about it because that shouldn't ever happen. We're a better team than that. But we will get it together and we will keep getting better." - Skyler Burkland
"I want us to dominate this week. I want the receivers to separate themselves. I want every receiver to catch a pass. I want us getting vertical. I want us to have great blocks on the outside for Larry and Le'Veon. I just want a complete game for the offense." - Bennie Fowler