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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

MSU FOOTBALL FRONT-BURNER: Slingshots or Bazookas in Future for Spartans' Offense?

~ Front-Burner Has Moved to Wednesdays ~
~ Contributors responded to questions prior to the Tuesday press conference ~

The MSU Offense gained more than 500 yards against YSU. What does that say about the rest of the season?

ATownAndDown (Follow him on M-Live)
The MSU offense had a great game against YSU. The competition was not the greatest defense of all time but given the state of MSU's offense it might be the just what the doctor ordered. We have seen the offense struggle in the first 2 games. This showed how good the offense could be if its hitting on all cylinders which is something many people were doubting. Go back to all the articles you read leading up to game day. How many had comments or prognostications that MSU would score even 40 points? Not many and MSU was almost to 40 points at half time. So for all of us (and those other people) that are sitting here saying, "Its just YSU. Whats the big deal?" The big deal is this offense woke up and did what almost everyone was saying wouldn't happen.

As far as the rest of the year, do I expect 500 yards and 50+ points? Hardly. That performance was what MSU's offense was supposed to do to YSU. It is a sign that maybe we jumped off the wagon a little early. ND will test MSU's offense so we will get to see where we are in hurry here. But no one should get too terribly discouraged if we don't see 30 points against ND either. ND has a better defense then Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota. And have you seen how awesome Nebraska and NW defenses have looked this year (they are combining to allow 450 yards and 27 points on average). I am not saying that any of these teams is on par with YSU but none are sporting the "Steel Curtain". Even an average offense will move the ball on them, so can MSU's offense even get to average? I think that seems obtainable.

SpartanMan82 (See all of his posts here)
The Week Three performance validates the probability of at least an 8-win season, and supports the possibility of 9/10 wins. Since 90% of all pre-season predictions for MSU were between eight wins and ten wins, this game told us nothing we didn't already "know" before the season began. However, it largely negates the worst-case-scenarios that were starting to take over after the first two games.

In effect, we're back to "square one". MSU is 3-0, as we knew we would be, and we have a chance to win in South Bend as an Underdog, which is where we expected to be.

One performance aspect that can't be negated by the lower-quality opponent were several great catches by receivers. Most other performance factors could be explained away largely by the FCS team.

MSUSpartan76 (Follow him on M-Live)
CAVEAT: While we are all pleased by the production of the offense, it is but a single positive result following 2 less than stellar performances. That makes it an indicator without a trendline. In otherwords, was it an anomaly, a fluke, a ton of good luck? Or does it foretell better days ahead. Too soon to tell. Still 3-0 is nothing to complain about.

As I wrote in "MSU FOOTBALL FRONT BURNER - A PLAN OR REACTIONARY TRAIN WRECK?" it appeared that those kids were just trying too hard, which always leads to overthinking everything. Thinking too much inhibits playing well. In the YSU game, the receivers especially seemed more relaxed and were having a bit more fun. If this indicator proves that they have turned the corner then we shall be in for a very fun season.

The YSU game also revealed there is still a lot of work to be done on offense, defense, and special teams especially coverage and returns. Overall, I beleive we can all stop holding our breaths, but the collective sigh of relief can only come after a win in South Bend.

Should we be feeling sorry for Andrew Maxwell and/or Damion Terry?

MSUSpartan76 (Follow him on M-Live)
No. No player is ever "entitled" to start or even play. While there is a general feeling that any of the 4 quarterbacks would have done well with the receivers producing as they did in the YSU game, Cook earned that start. The offensive scheme was more open and that was pleasing to see.

I believe return2glory covered this best in "REAR-VIEW MIRROR: Dantonio Calls Audible and Improvises in Quarterback Decision". No one should feel sorry for either. Neither failed to receive an equal shot at earning the start.

SpartanMan82 (See all of his posts here)
Perhaps on a personal level, but not on a "professional" level. Maxwell had plenty of time in the program to prepare for last year, then got to start 14 consecutive games. His record was 8-6 and his numbers were disappointing. His receivers dropped a lot of balls, but somehow with Connor Cook at quarterback, they made several great catches. I personally feel bad for Maxwell, as it seems he didn't do anything wrong in our program except that he wasn't good enough. On the other hand, don't rule him out, as the two guys ahead of him both will be hit hard a lot on keepers, and Maxwell may still have a storybook ending to his senior season.

For Terry, he has his whole career ahead of him, and he's gotten a lot of attention. He was given more opportunity than most true-freshman quarterbacks to this point. I shed no tears for Damion Terry.

ATownAndDown (Follow him on M-Live)
I do not feel sorry for Damion Terry for not getting his shot. Terry is a superb talent but he didn't enroll early and he is barely 45 days into actually getting college coaching. We hear about O'Connor and Cook still not having a complete grasp of the offense after months in the system. Terry playing should have been a last ditch, backyard offense prayer and not an actual plan unless he was able to pull some amazing pickup on the offense.

I do feel bad for Maxwell in this whole thing. Maxwell all through Spring and Fall camp held on to the job. In the WMU he was the best passer and was the most impacted by WR drops. Despite this, Coach D decided to run Cook and O'Connor against USF, which made sense to see if there was actually something there or if we should just run with Maxwell. Well things went terribly wrong to the point that Maxwell with no game prep was used as some kind of safety blanket. Despite having to turn to Maxwell like that Coach D went with Cook and Terry for prep and it appears that Maxwell (short of a new twist to this season) is done. Basically the job was his and he lost it without getting a shot despite his competitors getting second and third chances. What would Maxwell have looked like against YSU? Better? Worse? Identical? We will never know.

What should Coach Dantonio do in South Bend if the Offense led by Connor Cook looks the same as it did in the first two games of the season?

MSUSpartan76 (Follow him on M-Live)
Good question. I wish I knew what Coach Dantonio has planned for that contingency, but I am certain it has been thought of and he knows what he will "audible" should it come to that.

The last thing he should do is an act of desperation. Putting Terry in for the ND game would be just that. Terry had one good scrimmage but his inexperience, his lack of full knowledge of the offense and the play book, big time pressure, all of it conspire against him and playing him even for a series or two burns his redshirt.

One scenario of dozens is that the defense and special teams are doing the job but Cook and/or the receivers fall back into the dysfunctional performance we have seen in the first two games. That being the case, put in Maxwell. Maxwell is steady and experienced and does not make mistakes. Use that to gain field position advantage so the "Duzzi Dawgs" can be unleashed and possibly score.

ATownAndDown (Follow him on M-Live)
Coach D should hit the run early and often against ND. The strength of their defense is their line but I would lean hard on that strength and try and break it. If that DLine weakens or tires, not only does that force the back 7 to play differently but that will slow the pass rush. In the last two contests against ND, they have sacked MSU 6 times and hurried the QB 15 times! Our OLine has gotten torched two years running now. If the offense struggles its because we got away from the run and went to a predictable passing offense that allows that ND strength to pin its ears back and just cause chaos. At that point, might has well start calling hail mary's.

SpartanMan82 (See all of his posts here)
That depends on what's not working. But in general, if the game-plan goes belly-up, it's time to make changes, be they in play-calling or personnel. If nothing is working with Cook for five or more possessions, bring in a different quarterback.

At this point, I see O'Connor as the first backup to Cook, in the sense that they can both carry out the same game-plan with their similar skill-sets. So if Cook gets knocked into next week on a given play, I'm looking for O'Connor to jump in and keep the game-plan moving. But if it's just not working with Cook, we should have a "Game-Plan-B" for Maxwell to implement.

I still believe that Maxwell should be the holder on kicks, not as punishment, but as a true threat to pass on a fake. Seems like his presence as holder would shut down the possibility of a strong rush that could block a kick.

How is the November 2 game against Michigan shaping up in your mind after three games by both teams?

ATownAndDown (Follow him on M-Live)
I still think both U-of-M and MSU have questions that remain unanswered. Gardner has looked really good at times but has also made some bone-head plays. The U-of-M defense has also been susceptible. But they are still very tough and while they had a bit of a let down last week, they are going to be a tough win in a month and a half. If they were to play today, I would say it would come down to MSU capitalizing on U of M mistakes. If the offense can't do that then the scales are tipped in U of M's favor. If they can, then U of M will have its work cut out for it. MSU's offense isn't great but if you give them extra attempts I think they can capitalize.

MSUSpartan76 (Follow him on M-Live)
UM took a step back versus Akron and reveals many vulnerabilities. Will Hoke get the team from Ann Arbor Charm School patched up and ready? Probably. YSU only revealed the potential of the MSU Offense but exposed a couple of achilles' heels on defense and special teams. Can Dantonio patch those up and be ready? Probably.

By November 2nd, we should know just how good (or bad) both teams are but at this moment in time, the Polaroid shows both teams are going to be very good and the game should be one ot the top games of the season. If things progress as we hope, it may even become another "Game of the Century."
Let's hope the Spartan rushing attack continues to make strides. The team that wins the ground game usually wins.

SpartanMan82 (See all of his posts here)
It's looking pretty even-steven at this point. They clubbed CMU at home and we whipped YSU at home. They stunk against Akron, almost losing, and we were boring and unimpressive in easy wins (with close scores) against our other two cupcakes.

If our starting QB is knocked out before or during that game, I believe we have good players to take over. If their starting QB is knocked out before or during that game, I believe UM is toast.

Their rushing attack is ninth in the B1G while our defense is first in the nation. I invite them to BRING IT ON. They can hire as many planes as they want, but the actual game is played on the field. 500 glazed donuts won't help them in Spartan Stadium.

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