Weekend Review: FAU
A week has passed and the general feelings surrounding this Michigan State team has changed for many fans. Like most of us presumed, the Spartans came out sharp against the Owl’s on Saturday and the defense earned its first shutout since 2008 when they blanked – who else – the FAU Owls. As coaches and players like to say ‘The biggest improvements come between week 1 and week 2.’
“That’s the type of progress you want,” Dantonio said. “It was a very clean game.”
Here are the things from week 1 that Coach D wanted cleaned up against FAU:
-Offensive Line play: There were plenty of concerns about the offensive line, beginning at Left Tackle. Dan France was solid on Saturday, despite committing a false start penalty.
His athleticism at that position solidifies him at that position ahead of Fou Fonoti…at least for now. This weekend’s game against Notre Dame will be the true test.
-Special Teams: Last week it was a struggle getting the ball from snapper to holder to foot on field goal opportunities. This week was a different story however. The snaps and holds were all good according to Dantonio. The field goal unit finished 3-of-4, with its only miss coming from 28 yards out. Conroy finished 2-of-3, including a 50-yarder. Kevin Muma got a shot as well and hit his only attempt from 28 yards.
Meanwhile, Keshawn Martin - who last week fumbled a punt leading to Youngstown’s only points – was hot this week on his only return. In the second quarter, he was all shake ‘n bake on a 35 yard return to the FAU 43 yard line, setting up a Conroy field goal and 27-0 lead.
-Penalties: Last week the Spartans committed 8 penalties – 7 of them coming in the first half. This week however, MSU committed just 3 for 20. The last penalty however was a delay of game after Jeremy Langford’s fumble return for a touchdown.
-Controlling the tempo: MSU lost the time of possession battle last week, but dominated this week. 42:26 – 17:34. I think it’s safe to say that MSU righted the ship. Hopefully this trend will continue.
NEWS & NOTES
-BJ Cunningham was the story of the game as he broke MSU’s all-time record for career receptions on a falling down, juggling act, on the game’s first possession.
"Coach D came up to me in warmups and said 'Make it a special one',” said Cunningham. “I couldn't come out and drop the first one (catch). That would've been bad. The crowd would've been like 'Awwwww'."
“He’s just a guy that makes plays,” Dantonio said afterwards. “You can have him covered and he’s still gonna make the play. That’s the kind of receiver, really, you need out there.”
With his 5 receptions the tote board now reads 153 for Cunningham.
-Keshawn Martin recorded a milestone of his own. With his 73 receiving yards, he eclipsed the 1,000 yard plateau for his career.
-It was good to see backup QB Andrew Maxwell out there today. I thought he did a pretty good job on the basic plays that OC Dan Roushar called for him. It’s valuable to get him playing time in situations where the game is still up for grabs. Dantonio did that with Cousins back in 2008 and it’s paid off. Maxwell finished 6-10, for 63 yards.
-Dion Sims looked good on Saturday as well. He posted a career high 4 catches for 27 yards and a touchdown.
I thought the touchdown catch on the short fade route really showed his versatility and how scary he could be for opponents in the future. Not only does his 6’5” frame allow him to make catches over defenders, so too does his body. How can anyone get around his 280-pound build to knock a ball away? It’s a 99% impossibility. That’s a fact. Look it up.
-Kirk Cousins has been very sharp so far. While the rest of the team has had some difficult moments, Kirk hasn’t. After a 16-20, 183 yard, 2 touchdown performance on Saturday, he’s now completed 80.9% of his passes this season. True, I need to consider the competition, but he’s been spot on. And I think he’ll prove it again in South Bend.
-I enjoyed watching Mighty Mouse…err Nick Hill run the football on Saturday. For a dude that only stands 5’-7”, he’s a powerful man. He’s got the shiftiness of Keshawn Martin and the power of Le’Veon Bell. That’s what a low center of gravity does for you. He carried the ball 14 times for 56 yards.
“You saw what Nick Hill Can do,” Dantonio said after the game. “He’s very patient…He’s a powerful runner. It gives you an indication of what he’s all about a little bit. He can make plays.”
-Allowing a single first down? That’s it? I don’t care who you are or who you are playing. In a day and age of college football when you play against all variations of schemes, that’s incredible. Their only first down came when we didn’t really care about the record. It happened midway thru the 2nd quarter when backup QB David Kooi completed an 8 yard pass. That’s right, it was the backup who did it…Not to tell Howard Schnellenberger how to coach or anything, but maybe he deserves another shot. Or, maybe not. It probably won’t matter who plays against Auburn in 2 weeks.
The defense tied the record previously set on October 20, 1944 against Maryland in an 8-0 win. Who was the coach back then you ask??? It was Charlie Bachman. Or Mr. Bachman if you prefer.
-How about giving up 48 yards of offense to the Owls? Again, I don’t give a Hoot who you’re playing, that’s impressive (See what I did there? Please laugh). It ranks 6th all-time at MSU. Now if you want impressive, MSU held Pitt to -11 yards back in 1950.
-If that’s not enough, what about 3rd down defense. Yeah, the Owls were 0-10. 1st downs are overrated anyway.
-What about the Owl’s passing game? 6-13 for 26 yards. The 26 yards allowed by the MSU defense are the fewest allowed in the Dantonio Era. In fact, it’s the lowest since the 1984 Cherry Bowl when Army threw for 10 yards.
THE QUOTEABLE DANTONIO
“We came and played championship level play. This game. And I think that needs to be reiterated. That’s This game.”
“How we play next game. We’ve gotta prepare. There’s nothing given. It’s earned. So we’ll have to earn it next week.”
“I thought last week’s game got our attention and we were ready to go this week.”
STACKING UP (NCAA Ranks)
-1st in Interceptions thrown with 0
-3rd in scoring defense at 3 points per game. FAU’s previous opponent, Florida is tied for 1st.
-3rd in passing defense allowing 76 yards per game
-4th in total defense at 151 yards per game.
-6th in 1st down defense at 10.5 per game.
-7th in Time of Possession (No stats given by NCAA)
-9th in Redzone Defense (50 %) More impressive is that opponents have only been in the redzone twice.