Forget about Arizona State, the Spartans beat themselves!

There is an adage in Sports, “don’t beat yourself” or said another way…”let the other guy beat himself”.

Nevertheless, the Spartans seemingly disregarded that precept and committed an abundance of self-defeating penalties, and lost to Arizona State yesterday by a narrow score of 10-7. There was precious little margin for error yet the Spartans committed plenty.

In all, the Spartans committed 10 penalties for negative 91 yards, that’s an average of minus 9.1 Yard per penalty and that’s a travesty when we consider the Spartans average gain was just 5.4 Yards per play. Nevertheless, I want to focus upon the last penalty of the day.

Let’s remember, the Spartans finally scored a Touchdown with 8:30 remaining in the game to eke out a meager 7-3 lead. That Touchdown was followed by a unsuccessful 3 play possession by Arizona State, and that was followed by an unsuccessful 3 play possession by the Spartans.

Now, with 3:50 remaining on the clock and with nothing to lose, and with 4 downs at their disposal if needed, ASU marched down the field, covering 75 Yards on 11 plays  to take a 10-7 lead with just 0:50 remaining. Arizona State’s Freshman Quarterback carved up the Spartans.

Yet there was still time, and to the credit and resiliency of the Spartans, after the ensuing kickoff, the Spartans marched 46 yards in 6 plays to reach Arizona State 24 Yard Line. That was well within Field Goal range, yet there were 11 seconds remaining on the clock.

There was enough time to throw into the end zone, “ala the catch” made famous by Joe Montana throwing to Dwight Clark back in the day on a play called “Sprint right option”, ensuring the placement of the football would guarantee a Touchdown or prevent an interception. Either way, there was enough time that if the pass fell incomplete, the Spartans could still attempt a game winning Field Goal.

Yet, Dantonio erred on the side of caution and called for his Field Goal unit to take the field. Fair enough.

With the Ball placed at Arizona State 24 Yard Line, now comes the Field Goal unit onto the field to attempt a 41 Yard, game winning Field Goal. Very makeable by Matt Coghlin standards. Of course, there was trepidation, because normally reliable Matt Coghlin had missed two previous Field Goal attempts on the day.

Nevertheless, the law of averages were in favor of the normally reliable Coghlin. The football was snapped, the ball was placed and kicked, and the football sailed between the uprights. The Spartans seemingly pulled a victory from the jaws of defeat right?

Not so fast. A flag was thrown by the officials.

But, for what? Seemingly no one encroached the neutral zone; no one was offside; illegal procedure didn’t seem to be at issue. What was the problem?

Assuredly the Spartans counted players prior to the snap to ensure they had 11 men on the field, right? Wrong.

In arguably the most unforgivable and egregious error imaginable, the Spartans deployed 10 Blocking Linemen backed up by their holder as well as the Field Goal kicker. In simple arithmetic, by headcount, the Spartans had 12 players on the field.

But how did that happen?

This is basic football going back to Pop Warner. You always count to ensure the proper number of players are on the field on Special Teams. Yet, when the replay video was stopped and as we counted players, sure enough, there were 10 Blocking Linemen and thereby 12 men on the Field.

But how did that happen? Every day, the Field Goal unit lines up in practice…and every day, each player is abundantly aware of his position and abundantly aware of the player next to him. Every player has an assigned position. Every player knows where they are supposed to be lined up. In brief, you can’t have two players at the same position. To underscore that point, only one player can snap the football, right? So, how in the world did multiple players end up at the same position?

Of course, in the postscript, the Spartans were penalized 5 yards, and the second Field Goal attempt missed by a wide margin. A seemingly remarkable season is marred by unforgivable errors.

There are folks arguing that Arizona State was not called on the second Field Goal attempt for a Defensive player that launched in an attempt to block the Field Goal, but I won’t go down that path because that was after the Spartans beat themselves on the previous attempt, thereby nullifying a winning Field Goal.

When we count errors made in the Tulsa game as well as the Arizona State game, the Spartans have committed an eye glazing 24 penalties for nearly 215 Yards in just two games…and that is the essence of beating oneself.

Normally we would take a look at a wide range of game day stats, and try to review the ebb and flow of the game, but in my mind, the sad story of the day was errors, errors, compounded by more errors thereby leading up to the Spartans beating themselves.

This game was a travesty of unforgivable errors.