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Monday, September 5, 2011

Grading Game One

On a humid summer night, almost 76,000 fans packed Spartan Stadium for a sweaty soiree of Spartan football. The Friday night home opener gave MSU their first win of the season over Youngstown State in a final score of 28-6. Below is a position-by-position breakdown of the first game of 2011.

Let’s start with defense first… after all, they do win championships.

Defensive Line
The highly touted grunt line that anchors the defense, gave up 128 yards on the ground. Despite not having a single sack in the game, they blocked an extra point and stopped Youngstown State on a 4th & 1.
Grade: B

To replace last year’s veteran backers, this Spartan corps looked timid and seemed to frequently get caught on their heels. They gave up 20 first downs as the Penguins converted on 53% of its 3rd down attempts.
Grade: C+

Defensive Backs
This Spartan crew was able to get one interception and hold Youngstown State to a 48% completion percentage on 126
passing yards and one TD. Overall this squad played pretty well.
Grade B+

Overall Defense: This Spartan squad seemed sluggish and surrendered 254 yards of total offense, but still maintained a steady “bend but don’t break” defensive effort, playing the final two and a half quarters of shutout football.
Grade: B


Offensive Line
What more can you say about the selfless act by Joel Foreman? The consecutive starts streak was broken as the Spartan captain gave up his starting spot to cancer survivor Arthur Ray, Jr. But overall the “big uglies” up front looked somewhat lethargic at times, but managed to play a solid enough 2nd half to keep Youngstown State’s defense at bay.
Grade: B-

Of course by grading Spartan receivers, one can say that this group was all about one player: B.J. Cunningham. He accounted for half of the completions by Kirk Cousins and his 9 catches tied the school record for career receptions (tied with Matt Trannon). He also had 129 yards including a 55 yard strike and one TD.
Grade: A-

Running Backs
Despite a slow start, Spartan rushers ran for 159 yards and three TDs. They gained nearly 5 yards per rush but were not overpowering.
Grade: B

Kirk Cousins missed just four throws all night, throwing for 222 yards and one TD. He was very good in this opening game.
Grade: A-

Overall Offense
This highly regarded, explosive offense seemed to do enough to score four times but would be considered far from dominant.
Grade: B+

Special Teams
The Spartan squad that brought (last year) “Little Giants”, “Mouse Trap” and a game changing punt return for a TD, provided much to be desired. Special teams were successful on all 4 PATs, (defensively) blocked one PAT yet, fumbled a punt return, missed a 27 yard field goal and averaged just 38 yards per punt.
Grade: B-

Final Performance
MSU was playing at home, at night, to open the season against a Youngstown State team that lost eight games last year. Despite high expectations for the #17 ranked team, MSU played slightly above-average. They seemed like a team that showed up to an eating contest, having already been fed a Sunday night supper. Joey Chestnut would be disappointed.

Did they play poorly? No. Did they play excellent? Certainly not. But it’s still nice to be critical of a win. Ultimately, a bad win counts the same as a good one. There’s much to be learned from this game and without question adjustments will need to be made. But if the Spartans want to be considered a top-tier championship caliber team, they’ll need better all around better play in the weeks & months to come.

Final Grade: B+

Go Green!

-Spartan Dan Stepanian-Bennett
(BTN Video Highlights Below)

1 comment:

  1. Fairly optimistic review. Coach Dantonio gave Special Teams a "C-", or one full grade-notch below yours. I will stick with Coach Dantonio...these grades are all about one full grade-notch higher than warranted.

    Our guys still have the FAU game to get it together, and if they do, things can be okay this year. But we did not get our backups, especially Maxwell, the playing time they needed and deserved against YSU.


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