When you get to the top, it can be a long way down.

That's the sentiment that has been echoed by Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio repeatedly in the midst of his first four game losing streak with the Spartans.

"We've got to turn the corner and finish, that's the bottom line" Dantonio said in his post game press conference. "Not pointing fingers at anybody, we have to execute better"

Finishing and executing both have been a problem for Michigan State this season. In every loss this season they have scored first, meaning they've played with a lead to some degree and are just not able to keep it together for a full 60 minutes against what, in year's past, would be considered inferior competition.

Coming into this game, Dantonio put three QB's at the top of the depth chart. Redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke started and played 35 offensive snaps before being pulled for what offensive coordinator Dave Warner called "lethargic play from the offense" and sent in Tyler O'Connor to finish out the game. O'Connor played 30 offensive snaps.

O'Connor: 13-21 281 yards, 3 TD's and 1 INT

Lewerke: 12-19 99 yards, TD plus 7 carries for 30 yards

Damion Terry is still "in the mix" according to Warner.

"It's almost like we're at a loss for words" O'Connor said. "It's stunning... It's on us and we understand that"

When asked about coming off the bench in today's game O'Connor said "It's a different feeling, I was ready waiting for my moment, been doing that for a while now."

O'Connor certainly proved he can be the quarterback for 2016 after losing his starting job, but he might have done so too late. If week 7 Tyler O'Connor plays against Wisconsin and Indiana and BYU, the Spartans shouldn't be in their worst losing streak of the Dantonio era, but here they are.

Defensively the Spartans haven't been much better. Northwestern finished 10/16 on 3rd downs, a constant problem cited by the coaching staff as to the current struggles of MSU football. On first down plays, Northwestern averaged over six and a half yards per play.

This season Michigan State defense has given up three times as many points in the second half as the first half (135 vs 45 points allowed).

With no margin for error if a bowl bid is to be salvaged with opponents like Michigan and Ohio State still to come, Spartan Nation needs O'Connor to play this way the rest of the way, and for the defense to step up in a big way. Dantonio hasn't cashed out the season yet, but for a team that some had repeating an appearance in the College Football Playoff a middle of December bowl game will come as little condolence, if that even comes at all.