Tuesday's Take Two
"Expectations coming into the game were a little bit higher than maybe we played” – Mark Dantonio
As a fan you can dissect MSU’s 28-6 victory any way you want. But the simple, succinct, aforementioned quote from Coach Dantonio should be all you need to move forward.
Since Saturday’s sluggish start, I’ve heard fans gripe about anything and everything about this football team’s win. In fact, many sounded exactly like we’ve heard over the past few years. The only thing I didn’t hear was the infamous “Same Old Spartans” line. Thankfully, a Big Ten championship seems to have taken that phrase out of a Spartan fan’s vocabulary.
So to put the game in the rearview mirror, lets dissect both the positive and negatives from week 1.
1. Special teams. Keyshawn Martin’s muffed punt was an obvious negative and MSU’s time of possession suffered because of it. After the Spartans scored early in the 2nd quarter, it looked like they would reverse the 11:30 that the Penguins possessed the ball in the 1st quarter. However, after a defensive 3-and-out, Martin fumbled the ball and gave YSU back possession.
There were also a couple of bad snaps. On the botched field goal in the 3rd quarter, new holder Brad Sonntag did not seem to have enough time to rotate the ball, which forced Dan Conroy to kick the laces and miss the FG. This happened on a PAT as well, but Conroy converted. This prompted Spartan Radio Analyst Jim Miller to throw an ACE Ventura reference at us in the Post Game show. “Laces out Dan!”
2. Penalties. YSU would chew up another 4 minutes of time with a 10-play drive, resulting in their only score of the game. However, the Spartans were whistled for Pass Interference, giving the Pens 15 yards.
A few plays later, on 3rd down, the Spartans were whistled for offsides on a play which resulted in an incomplete pass. The following play, YSU scored it’s only points of the game. In total, the Spartans were whistled for 7 penalties for 50 yards in the first half. YSU would’ve been held out of the endzone if not for the fumble and penalties.
3. 3rd Down. YSU converted 7-16 3rd down opportunities and were 2-2 on 4th downs. Conversely, MSU was just 1-7 on 3rd down.
MSU’s execution really turned around in the second half. Which resulted in many more positives than negatives in the game (Surprise, surprise right? Not nearly everything was negative)
1. Penalties. After a first half which saw MSU commit 7 for 50 yards, the Spartans did a 180. Only 1 flag for 5 yards in the 2nd.
2. Time of Possession: the 1st half saw YSU lead the way 19:36 to 10:24. However, MSU flipped the switch thanks to solid execution on offense, and a young defense that began to slow down and read the YSU offense. In the 2nd half, MSU held the ball for 18:27, compared to YSU’s 11:33. Last season, when the Spartans won the TOP battle, they were a perfect 8-0.
3. Max Bullough. While this was only one game, I think we already saw a MIKE linebacker capable of partially making up for the loss of Greg Jones – at least on first glance. Max can fly around the field and he can punish whomever has the ball. He finished his starting debut with 15 stops. He made 23 all of last season. This week against a pro style offense, he should be just as good. Maybe even better.
4. B.J. Cunningham. I couldn’t leave B.J. off this list. He had a career day on Friday night, catching 9 balls for 130 yards (both career highs) and a score. His final catch tied him for 1st all time in receptions at MSU with 148 all time. Matt Trannon has 5 more days to reign at the top with B.J. Kirk Cousins had talked in the preseason about the fact that he and Cunningham had been running ten consecutives routes against the wind before moving onto another route…something he learned this year at the Manning Passing Academy. B.J. has averaged just over 46 catches per year. Expect that number to be between 60 and 70 this season.
5. Darqueze Dennard. He had a career high 6 tackles and 1 pass break up. He showed strength and speed in his capability of covering an opponent’s top WR. After getting a half under his belt, he looked solid in the 2nd frame.
6. Will Gholston. The sophomore also set a career high in tackles with 6. More importantly though was his ability to read the offense. Against a spread offense, speed and recognition is a key. He showed his physical ability and football IQ against YSU with his 2 tackles for loss.
7. Denicos Allen, Johnny Adams, and Marcus Rush. I don’t want to leave these 3 out. All of them played well – especially in the 2nd half. Team speed is crucial and these guys have it. Allen notched a career best 9 tackles (including 1.5 for loss) and Adams had 7 stops. Also a career high. Rush, got credit for 4 tackles. He was all over the field as well.
NEWS and NOTES
The weekly Tuesday press conference (Listen HERE) generally yields some good insight. This week was no exception. Coach D had a lot to say about the offensive line:
On the importance of someone at Left Tackle: “Certainly the left tackle position, that's the one that's maybe a little bit more up for grabs right now. Dan France, Fou Fonoti, Jared McGaha, all three of those guys could figure playing at the left tackle position as we move forward. But I think it's important that we solidify the entire group as we go, not just the one position. Your left tackle has usually got to protect the backside of your quarterback if he's right handed, so obviously that's an important position."
What it takes for an O-line to Gel: “I think the offensive line is a position where it takes the longest to get yourself on the field, then you've got five of them, so it takes the most time to have a group that gels.
”But the best teacher for all of us is going out here on this field and playing in that atmosphere with that crowd noise with a different defense against you every week, with a different type of defense versus you every week and having to adapt because that's what they have to do on game day, they have to adapt. And if one person steps wrong or steps underneath themselves and does not step with power or goes the wrong way on a pass protection, it can make the whole group look bad. Sometimes those are going to happen when you have younger players, but we hope to limit those at this point and completely omit those as we get into our fourth or fifth game of the season.”
The center position and Travis Jackson: “At center, Travis has an ankle (injury). I thought Blake (Treadwell) played pretty well in the game for his first time out there as an offensive center. He'll start this game. Travis if he's able to play possibly will play, would come in in more of a reserve - probably reserve mode this week.
-The depth chart now reveals either Dan France or Fou Fonoti will start at Left Tackle, while Jared McGaha as moved to the right side and is listed at the back up to Skyler Burkland.
-With solid play against Youngstown State, Will Gholston (6 tackles, 2 TFLs) is atop the depth chart at DE. Tyler Hoover is listed as his backup.
-Nick Hill has now moved into the starting role alongside Larry Caper as Kick Returner. Keshawn Martin has moved is now listed as a backup. Martin is still listed as the #1 Punt Returner. Here’s what Dantonio had to say about that move.
“We'll go with Nick right now because I think he needs to have a place on this football team where he can flourish, where he can blossom a little bit. He's an exciting performer for us. He's not getting the touches at tailback right now due to the depth, but I think he needs to get the touches and he needs to gain experience.”
-Injuries are also on the mend:
**Wide receiver Bennie Fowler did not dress last week due to a leg injury. It’s a possibility that he will play on Saturday. “We expect Bennie to be back soon,” Dantonio said. “Whether he makes it this week or not, it’s a rest-type thing.”
**Freshman Lawerence Thomas could be back soon as well. He injured his shoulder in the first week of fall camp. “LT is back in pads, and we'll begin to work him back to see what he can do,” Dantonio said. “But right now to go and smack somebody, to be able to play in a game this weekend, I don't think it'll happen. But maybe by next week.”
**Finally, safety Jairus Jones, who tore his Achilles in the second-to-last spring practice is closer to returning. "You can't be a step slow, and I would say if he was playing a different position right now, he probably would be able to play,” said Dantonio. “If he was an offensive lineman or a defensive lineman with that healing and speed, but in the secondary you've got to make too many quick movements…at least if he didn’t play in the defensive backfield.”
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