5 things to watch: How will the Spartans rebound from last week
MSU will be back on the gridiron this Saturday as the Spartans will face the Iowa Hawkeyes in their first Big Ten Conference game of the season.
Here are five things to watch this Saturday:
Rebounding from first loss: The Spartans lost their first game of the season last weekend in a 38-18 loss to Notre Dame.
The loss doesn’t count towards the conference standings, so MSU will have the chance to rebound from its first loss of 2017 this Saturday and enter next weekend’s rivalry matchup against Michigan with a 1-0 record in the Big Ten.
Preventing turnovers: MSU has committed eight turnovers in three games in 2017, with six of those turnovers being fumbles, and the other two were interceptions thrown by quarterback Brian Lewerke.
Junior running back LJ Scott accounts for three of the Spartans’ fumbles. Hoping to cure his fumbling issues, the Ohio native now carries around a football, which was given to him by co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Coach Dave Warner, around the Spartans’ practice facility.
21 of the Irish’s 38 points last weekend came off of MSU’s turnovers. If MSU can fix its turnover problem, the Spartans should be in prime position to come away with a victory on Saturday.
Creating takeaways: Only one team has recorded fewer takeaways this season than the Spartans.
The Spartans’ two forced turnovers, both interceptions, are just barely more than Florida State, who is last in the FBS in creating takeaways with zero.
As a result of MSU’s ball security struggles and inability to force turnovers, the Spartans have a minus-6 turnover margin, placing them tied for 125th in the nation out of 129 teams in that category.
Defensive ends and special teams coach Mark Snyder said on Wednesday that the best way for the Spartans to force their opponents to turn the ball over is to make them run the ball.
“We want them to run to the ball,” Snyder said. “Good things happen when you run to the ball, and we're doing that right now. Our kids are playing extremely hard, and when you play hard like that, good things happen.”
Rushing attack: After last weekend’s loss, Dantonio repeatedly mentioned his displeasure in the rushing attack, saying the team needs to get better results out of its trio of running backs.
Currently, the Spartans’ leading rusher isn’t even a running back, as Lewerke leads the team with 206 yards rushing on 26 attempts and has a team-high two rushing TDs.
LJ Scott, who has started in two of three games this season, has the highest rushing yards among all running backs with 186 yards rushing.
With a team total of 662 yards rushing in 2017, the Spartans are ranked fourth among teams in the Big Ten.
In MSU’s loss to Notre Dame, the Spartans logged 151 yards rushing, with 52 yards coming from a run by Lewerke that was intended to just be a quick QB sneak to grab the first down.
“I think we need to. That sets the focus,” Dantonio said of getting the RBs more involved. “Did we run the ball effectively last week? 52 (yards) of (the total rushing yardage Saturday) was on that quarterback sneak. It was well designed, and he took off, but, again, the game changed. So at halftime, take that 52 out of there, you've got about 50. … I've said all along that we've got to get our tailbacks going, and we have to.”
Josiah Scott: True freshman cornerback Josiah Scott has lived up to the hype.
After three games, Scott has a passer rating against of 2.8, which is the best among all cornerbacks in the Big Ten, according to Pro Football Focus.
In his freshman campaign, the 5-foot-10, 173 pound cornerback has recorded three tackles, one interception and three pass breakups.
Scott will be a key player to watch for Saturday as he tries to continue the success he has created in 2017.