Michigan State has lost three of its last four games by a total of six points and has scored only one touchdown in each of those defeats. Not surprisingly, Spartans fans believe they have found the culprit in their team's disappointing 4-4 start: offensive coordinator Dan Roushar.
It's not surprising because offensive coordinator is among the most hazardous jobs in football. When things go wrong, they're the first to get the blame. Roushar has come under fire for a sputtering attack that is averaging just 19.6 points per game, which is 11th in the Big Ten.
But head coach Mark Dantonio said on Tuesday that Roushar isn't the cause of the problem.
"The offense really hasn't changed," Dantonio said. "... He's tucked right under here, under my wing. If they want to criticize, criticize me a little bit because I'm in charge."
The offensive struggles become even more stark heading into this week's game at Wisconsin. In last year's two epic clashes with the Badgers, the Spartans scored 37 and 39 points. They're averaging about half that in Big Ten play this year. Dantonio says the play-calling is no different, it's just that veterans like Kirk Cousins, B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin are now in the NFL.
"The plays that are called, no matter what the play is, you've got to execute," quarterback Andrew Maxwell said. "Every play is drawn up to be successful. When it's not, you don't have to look much farther than the players. We have to put that on ourselves."
The defense is doing enough to win. Michigan failed to score a touchdown last week but still beat Michigan State 12-10. Is there a danger of the locker room becoming split, of the defensive guys blaming the offensive side for the losses? Dantonio says no.
"You want to make sure this remains a team, that we're cohesive as a group, we don't split, we don't divide," he said. "That's the most important thing about a football team. That's more important than winning and losing.
"I think it's very important we stay together, we don't point the fingers, we accept the responsibilities that come with coaching and playing in every aspect, special teams, defense, offense, and we continue to move together. Everybody shares in the wins and the losses. It's just as disappointing for a defensive player on Saturday as it was for any other player."
Michigan State fans may be united in their disdain for Roushar right now, but Dantonio is sticking with the plan.