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Saturday, September 8, 2012
MSU Football: Week Two & CMU
Greetings again Spartan fans!
Let me start by saying- breathe in, breath out. Repeat. Now pinch yourself… hard.
I start my blog post like this because I’ve seen and heard fans, pundits, and experts with their reactions to MSU’s 17-13 win against Boise State. To some, the win was more monumental than Michigan State’s stout defense, upset win in 1998 over #1 nationally ranked Ohio State at the Horseshoe. It wasn’t that. Still, others saw an offensive debacle similar to 2006’s meltdown against Notre Dame, riddled with blocking breakdowns, receiver-dropped passes and several untimely turnovers. It wasn’t that either.
So what was MSU’s first game of the 2012 season? Let’s break it down.
MSU Offense Grade: B+
Michigan State’s game plan was simple. Run, Run, Pass, Score, Win. By those objectives, they were fairly successful. What people didn’t expect was a running assault that was started, maintained and anchored by Le’Veon Bell. 44 carries for 210 yards and 2 TDs is certainly a great start. Just to give you an idea of how that ranks, in 1985, Lorenzo White averaged 33 touches a game. Two years later in 1987, White averaged 28 plays from scrimmage. To give a more recent example, look at Javon Ringer’s 2008 performance averaging 35 touches per game. In my (post) Olympic spirit, did you see Le’Veon Bell’s hurdle over that guy?
Despite a strong rushing attack by Bell (averaging nearly 5 yards per carry), the passing game struggled… sort of. Andrew Maxwell looked a little bit off on his throws, throwing 3 interceptions, although 2 of those being deflected from MSU receiver’s hands and another turnover coming off a receiver’s fumble. To all the skeptics, let’s take a look at his other numbers. Maxwell still went 22-38 and threw for 248 yards, having not surrendered a single sack. What helped a less-than-stellar performance from Spartan receivers was more than half of his completions came from RB Le’Veon Bell and TE Dion Sims. Sims led all receivers with 8 catches for 65 yards including a crucial 18 yard reception on a 3rd down on 25 yard line en route to the game winning score. It’s worth mentioning that the most important part of that play (excluding a great throw and catch) was Bell’s backside block picking up a weak-side blitz.
At the end of the game, MSU’s offense gained 461 yards and went 10-19 on 3rd downs gaining 25 total first downs. In closing, I personally asked (via chat) ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg the following:
Question: MSU played pretty well on the defensive side which will certainly keep them in a lot of games this year. What is the #1 biggest question for you with MSU's offense?
Answer: Right now, it's Maxwell and his ability to create better timing with his receivers and tight ends. I liked the way Michigan State got both Dion Sims and Le'Veon Bell involved in the pass game. But Maxwell has to put better touch on his passes and establish a couple of reliable options on the outside. I actually think the Boise State game could turn out great for him, because he was able to build off some struggled in a game MSU still won.
MSU Defensive Grade: A-
This one is much easier. MSU held Boise State’s offense to just 13 points. This is a team that scored 30 points or more in every single game last season and scored more than 40 points in 8 games. So let me say that again, MSU held Boise State to just 13 points! The also pushed their way around, limiting the Broncos to a measly 5-14 on 3rd downs, 37 yards rushing while giving up 169 passing yards. Did I mention a great endzone interception, a fumble recovery and a turnover on downs? This squad has yet to surrender a TD.
Next Game: Central Michigan
Look for the “Chips” to be fired up for first time meeting at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Sadly, it will be as fulfilling for CMU students as a visit to the Soaring Eagle Casino aka “Snoring Beagle.” MSU has won 4 out of 5 games. I say that last stat for one “sick” reason, a 2009 illness MSU caught called “LeFevour.” 2009 CMU Quarterback Dan LeFevour (who had 150 career TDs) upset MSU at Spartan Stadium. NOOOOOOOT SO FAST, MY FRIEND. CMU coach and former Spartan quarterback, Dan Enos will hope their continue their tandem running attack Zurlon Tipton and Anthony Garland, who both rushed for over 100 yards each last week. They’ll need to improve the play of quarterback Ryan Radcliff, who went completed just 14-of-23 attempts for 171 yards and a touchdown, with an interception last week. Also expect a big game from Sophomore LB Justin Cherocci who had 15 tackles last week. Despite the Chippewa’s first-ever pre-game sellout, I don’t expect they will make it close.
Final Score: 42-10