Tuesday's Take Two
Saturday, the Michigan State offense struggled mightily to run the football, gaining just 29 yards on 23 attempts. Now, just three days later, it appears that the Spartans struggles could continue.
On Monday, MSU announced that right tackle Skyler Burkland had been lost for the season after suffering a “fracture/dislocation” of his left ankle in the first half against Notre Dame.
Tuesday, the news got even worse when Head Coach Mark Dantonio announced that senior offensive tackle Jared McGaha –who sprained his MCL in practice and missed last week’s game – would be absent until after the bye week.
“He should be able to play for the Michigan game,” said Coach Dantonio on Tuesday. “We’ll probably miss him next week, get healthy enough to practice during the bye week and we’ll have him for the Michigan game. But I would not anticipate him playing next week.”
If that weren’t enough, Coach D also announced that center Blake Treadwell would be out for at least one week with an MCL sprain suffered on Saturday.
“It remains to be seen how soon he will be back,” Dantonio led on. “Whether that’s one week, two weeks, you know, or the Michigan game.”
Amidst all of the bad news, Dantonio announced that talented red-shirt freshman center Travis Jackson will start against CMU. He also admired the way Fou Fonoti played filling in for Burkland on Saturday.
But that’s not nearly enough good news for a glaring numbers game on the offensive line, especially when you consider all of the talent that Dantonio has recruited since he arrived in East Lansing.
Think about this. A couple years ago it appeared that tackles David Barrent and Henry Conway would bookend the offensive line with Nate Klatt at center. If you add guard Joel Foreman to that group, it was thought that this line would be on par with Wisconsin’s for the 2011 season.
But from the time Barrent and Conway arrived at MSU, injuries have plagued them. Barrent (Back) and offensive tackle Zach Hueter (shoulder) have suffered career ending injuries, while Conway (neck) and Klatt (foot) are still trying to fight through theirs.
So, what a couple years ago looked like an intimidating offensive line for 2011, has since become a decimated one. So much so, that left tackle Dan France and center Blake Treadwell converted into offensive lineman from the defensive side. And, just announced this week, sophomore Micajah Reynolds – who spent most of the spring at right guard – is converting into a left tackle after a stint as nose tackle this fall.
If all of this is confusing, you’re not alone (I got confused attempting to write the last three paragraphs).
However, despite all of MSU’s injuries and consequent struggles along the offensive front, Dantonio said Tuesday that the mission remains the same.
“We need to pound the ball. Just like we’ve said in the past, ‘Pound Green Pound.’ We need to run the football. And we’re going to do that.”
After all smash-mouth football is MSU’s football philosophy. Between the start of last season and now, the Spartans have lost just three times. And in those three contests (at Iowa, vs Alabama, and at Notre Dame) the Spartans have failed to run the football successfully, averaging a meager four ground yards per game, compared to a 174 yard per game average in 13 wins.
“We don’t change our philosophy,” Dantonio said. “We’ve got too good of running backs. We have to put the ball in our running backs hands because they’re too good of players…if we had average running back’s we would change our thinking, maybe.”
“You deal with it. You deal with adversity and you deal with the problems that you have.”
NEWS & NOTES
-B.J. Cunningham leads the Big Ten in receptions (26) and receiving yards (120.3 ypg). Those numbers also rank ninth nationally.
-After throwing for 329 yards at Notre Dame, Kirk Cousins now sits in second place all-time at MSU in passing yards with 6,549. Cousins is also one touchdown pass away from tying Bill Burke for second all-time with 46.
-Michigan State leads the Big Ten in total defense at 192.3 yards per game. That number is also good for fourth in the nation.
-The Spartan defense also leads the Big Ten in pass defense at 104.3 yards per game, which is third nationally.
-Running Back Nick Hill continues to make a strong impression in the kick return game. Against Notre Dame, Hill averaged 32.3 yards on four returns, including a 42-yarder.
THE QUOTEABLE DANTONIO
Challenge to the Running Backs:
“I think that’s challenge for our entire football team. I think they gotta have a mindset. Come Saturday, they better have a mindset. Their coach will…I don’t wanna let the cat out of the bag, but their coach will.”
Challenge to the Team:
“Our challenge is, be accountable, correct the mistakes, handle the tough times. That’s what you have to do as a leader.”
“We will still maintain that we expect to succeed. There are no alibis…”
“Our goals are all in front of us. That’s a thing that I think our players need to understand.”