Ducks Run Away From MSU
Michigan State learned the lesson that so many others have learned on their way up to Eugene, OR. The Ducks are fast, and just keep coming at you. Oregon wore down the Spartans and turned around a double digit deficit into a double digit win. It is certainly a tough loss, and the final score is not indicative of what actually happened in that game. MSU competed well for much of that game, but just let it get away late. It’s a loss, but not one that is totally unexpected or even one that is totally back breaking to their season goals. Here’s a look at the good and the bad.
The Good: I would say that most didn’t expect the Spartans to win this game anyway. I know Spartan fans thought they had a good chance, but the fact that the line was placed at 13 ½ shows that the national people didn’t exactly like the MSU odds. There really isn’t that much damage done by this loss. They didn’t lose the Big Ten. They didn’t lose a look at the National Championship. Now, if they did win, they would have been set up as a favorite to get to the final four, and would have a good look at going undefeated. As it stands, Sparty can still run the table and still get to the Final Four.
The other good is that they didn’t go away in this game. They got down by double digits early, but didn’t give up like so many other teams would. Their offense made a nice comeback to put MSU up again before the half. It actually looked like they were going to take that lead and run with it, until Oregon turned it up again.
The Bad: Their defense was worked over on Saturday. You knew the Ducks would put up a few points but I don’t think anyone thought they’d score 46. We are used to MSU using their physical style to dominate at the point of attack, but they weren’t able to do that on Saturday. Perhaps it was the heat, the long travel, a hostile environment or the Oregon speed. Perhaps it was all of those things put together. Either way, the defense was dominated in a way we haven’t seen a Spartan defense in a few years.
Is there some question about the Spartan defense? I think this shows there needs to be a little. I don’t think that happens to last year’s team. I thought there were some questions about this defense heading into the season anyway. You can’t replace half of your defense and still expect to be just as dominating. They still should be good, but it will take some time. If they somehow match up with Oregon later this season I think it will be a different story. They can surly turn this thing around and still have a solid defense, but they were certainly humbled on Saturday night.
The offense produced yards and put up 27 points, which would be fine against most teams, but it couldn’t keep up over the long run with Oregon. That’s not all their fault because most games they will get more help from their defense and 27 should be plenty. When you look at the final stats they are pretty close. They were outgained in total yards 491-466. MSU had more first downs, and less penalties than Oregon. This really came down to a couple pretty big stats though. One, Connor Cook threw two picks, and the other is they were outgained on the ground and only rushed for 123 yards. Once again the Spartans run game was not everything they needed it to be. Part of slowing down the Ducks is on the ground and working that clock. It’s good that they have a QB and Cook can throw the ball effectively, but they can’t get away from what they need to do. They still need to get that running game up to full speed and get back to the physical offensive style.
Michigan Falls Flat
Michigan played their last game against Notre Dame and the Irish got the last laugh. And what it laugh it was. A 31-0 beat down of the Wolverines. The Wolverines did not look good on offense or defense. You could even say it looked like they took a step back from last year. That game has singlehandedly restarted the “Fire Hoke” talk. With Jim Harbaugh having troubles getting a new contract in San Francisco that talk might be upped even more as the season goes along. I said before the season it wasn’t really about how many wins, although I thought and still do think it would be hard to lose more than four games. It is more about how they look and if they are actually improved. Well, on Saturday they did not look improved at all.
The Good: Ummmmm…..Ummmm…Both of your biggest rivals lost as well on Saturday. That goes out to the guy who thinks your rivals losing is just as good as your team winning. If you can think of something else and something real email me and let me know because I’ve thought about this all day yesterday and I haven’t come up with anything.
The Bad: Oh boy where do you start? Well how about the offense. The thing that looked so good last week and looked like it was ready to make a big step this year. Yeah, that doesn’t appear to be happening. They Wolverines were shutout for the first time in 30 years on Saturday night. Shutout by a defense that is not that great and is missing a few key parts. Certainly not a good look for Doug Nussmeier.
Devin Gardner showed good pocket presence last week and this week he looked shaky at best. He was getting happy feet and not trusting his blocking. There were times when the pass block was actually there, but he didn’t trust it enough to stand in the pocket and make a good throw. Maybe this was just flashbacks to last year because it wasn’t like he was on his back the whole game. He only was sacked once. The biggest thing about him is that he’s a fifth year senior QB who still looks like he is learning how to play the position. He finished the game throwing for 189 yards and three interceptions. Overall the offense turned it over four times.
The offensive line was still not blocking good enough. That was evident in the fact that they rushed for only 100 yards in the game. Derrick Green led the less than stellar charge with 25 yards on 13 rushes, a fantastic 1.9 yards per carry. There were a few times in the first half where they ran the ball effectively, but it still was not good enough. The line still doesn’t look like it’s working as a unit. That might be because of how much movement they still have on that line. They don’t have guys set in place yet and that has been the case the whole time leading up to the season.
As for the defense, they didn’t have a chance here, because they didn’t get any help. They were put in some bad positions at times as well. But, if this really is one of the best defenses we’ve seen in the Hoke regime, then I would actually like to see that. Perhaps they didn’t get dominated on Saturday night but they still gave up 31 points, which is pretty unacceptable. The Notre Dame offense is good. There’s no doubt about that, but they seemingly had Michigan figured out by the middle of the second quarter. ND didn’t put up huge offensive numbers (Michigan believe it or not outgained them in the game), but they were able to drive down the field and went right through them at times. The biggest thing was ND was 7-15 on third down conversions, showing they couldn’t make the big plays to get off the field when they needed to.
Perhaps the biggest indictment on Hoke and his staff is that they aren’t developing talent. I don’t think there is a lack of talent. There is a lack of players getting better. That is really the most important thing. The recruiting classes have been good. It’s not like they are going after guys that no one else wants. I have no idea how they aren’t getting better, but it’s pretty clear these guys aren’t progressing. That is directly on Hoke, and his entire staff. They better figure out a way to get these guys better and do it fast because Hoke’s seat just got a little hotter on Saturday night.
On Tap for Tonight:
Tigers vs. Royals. 4:00 Verlander (12-12, 4.80) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (10-10, 4.31)
Lions vs. Giants. 7:10