The annual MSU-UM game ended in a huge thud for the Spartans. All of the pundits predicted a minor blow-out of 20 points. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. I didn’t get to see yesterday’s game in person, but I watched intently in the cave. And my feeling is that MSU is in danger of going winless in its next four games. Yes, we should beat Illinois and Rutgers. But we were supposed to win against Maryland and Indiana. We could beat OSU and PSU. Yes, it’s possible because we have talented players. So do OSU and PSU. So, it’s unlikely.
The ESPN crew drooled over U-M’s performance in this game and they preached constantly that U-M and Ohio State should make it to the college football playoff. Maybe. Both teams are dominant on defense. And, defense wins titles. After watching yesterday’s game, we should be impressed with U-M. The final thing I want to say about the announcers is, “Thank goodness we didn’t have Matt Millen covering our game.” I think he works for the Big 10 Network now. And, I’ve had the “pleasure” of watching his coverage of our games. Assigning Millen to cover our game is a joke the network likes to play on all of us in Southeast Michigan. The game was bad enough.
Here is the low-down: U-M is a better football team than MSU. Anyone who says, “we could have won that game” or “we were in it to the end” is dreaming. The so-called comeback led by Brian Lewerke is a case of “too little, too late.” It’s obvious U-M’s defense rested during the 2nd half. Jim Harbaugh and the coaches have to work on that point.
MSU continues to play woefully on both the O-Line and D-Line. U-M’s Wilton Speight is solid at quarterback. As reported previously, he plays well enough to win. Only one interception. No fumbles. No hard counts that make his own team mates jump off-sides. The passes may not be perfect. U-M’s receivers make nice catches and they made nice catches yesterday.
On the other hand, Tyler O’Connor was named as the starter for MSU- a decision I agree with whole-heartedly. TOC hasn’t done anything to help MSU lose games. But, he hasn’t been able to make or create plays to win games. I think the problem, and it wouldn’t be a problem if the line would block for him like U-M’s line blocks for Speight, is that he is a pocket-passer. Tom Brady just stands in the pocket for the New England Patriots, sets up shop, checks his email, checks his messages and tosses passes to a talented group of receivers. The MSU pocket breaks down quickly. Because TOC doesn’t create wins with his feet, he isn’t suited for this offense. Not his fault, but it is what it is.
Damian Terry came in and moved the team, but only with his feet. His passing was ineffective due to the rust that comes with a lack of playing time. Additionally, he made a bad toss on a pitch-out to LJ Scott. Brian Lewerke came in and made a few big gains on the ground when the pocket collapsed and also a few nice touch-passes. TOC doesn’t do that as well- plain and simple. As much as TOC is my sentimental favorite to be the starter, Brian Lewerke is the guy! Lewerke and Terry were injured yesterday. So expect TOC to play again next week. If the O line is able to handle the Illini defensive front, TOC can be successful.
At receiver, Darboh (8 catches),Butts (3 catches) and Chesson (2 catches) for U-M compared to MSU’s Price (3 catches), Shelton (2 catches), Corley (2 catches), Madaris (1 catch) was about even. But U-M passed for 244 yards while MSU passed for only 184 which isn’t bad, but most of MSU’s catches came when the game was already decided. Something quite telling about MSU’s offensive production is that Madaris, a senior, recorded his first TD reception yesterday- 8 games into the season.
The running game was puzzling. Usually the team that wins the rushing yards battle usually wins this game. MSU rushed 42 times for 217 yards compared to U-M’s 42 times for 192 yards. Here is the problem. While MSU’s game plan was to control the game with lots of running plays (keep the ball and they can’t score) was successful in the first quarter (score was 7 – 7), U-M scored on every possession of the first half. Keeping the ball a long time is a good idea. The problem is that we have to score- a huge problem for MSU- and the defense has to stop the opposition- another huge problem that doesn’t look like it will be solved anytime soon.
At Half-Time, Coach D said, “We can’t make a big play on defense on third down.” No doubt about it coach. Coaches Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel have their work cut out for them. The team has many challenges. I feel getting off the field on third down can make a huge difference for this team going forward. Solve that problem and we will win games.
Play-calling. . . come on coaches. Four running plays in the red zone and no score! U-M’s defense is fast so why can’t we call a Tight End screen pass or a pitch-out to LJ Scott? Like I said before, I agree with the ball-control strategy, but the O-line didn’t open holes for the runners down at the goal-line. Figuring out how to keep the opponent’s defense off-balance is Coach Dave Warner’s assignment for the next game. Changing the plays might not have worked against U-M, but let’s try and mix things up and see what happens.
Same ol’ same ol’…
Up Next Week: MSU versus Illinois.
Good-bye Paul Bunyan Trophy. You’re not a pretty trophy, but we’ll miss you. It was fun while it lasted- 2012-2015.
Courtesy of Bing