Friday, November 27, 2020

HALFTIME: MSU 14, U-M 10, 3 thoughts on the Spartans in Ann Arbor

October 31, 2020
MSU cornerback, Chris Johnson (12),  tackles U of M wide reciever, Cornelius Johnson (6).
MSU cornerback, Chris Johnson (12), tackles U of M wide reciever, Cornelius Johnson (6). —
Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

Michigan State is showing some life after a devastating loss to Rutgers last week, as they lead the Wolverines 14-10 in Ann Arbor. Here's three thoughts from the first half:

The Michigan State wide receivers are causing problems for the Michigan secondary

Michigan State has struggled in the last few seasons with speed from their wide receiver core. That’s not the case this season with new newcomer Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor on the outside with a group of young wide receivers looking to make a name for themselves.

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Michigan has been called for multiple pass interferences as MSU wide receivers have been able to get into decent positions on their routes.

The deep shot to Ricky White for a touchdown early on and the 53-yard bullet to Nailor later that set the Spartans up for their second touchdown is something we haven’t seen in quite some time. The Spartans will need more of that to keep up with the Wolverines.

Michigan State’s defensive line is legit

The other missing piece from Michigan State’s team last year was a pass rush. So far today, the Spartans have not given Michigan quarterback Joe Milton any time to think. Senior edge rusher Jacub Panasiuk and linebacker Noah Harvey have been in the backfield time and time again.

This has forced Michigan to get the ball out quickly and to the edge as MSU has continued to fill the box to stop the run and rush the quarterback. The secondary has struggled to contain out on the edge, as we saw on Michigan’s first touchdown drive.

Last week against Rutgers, Michigan State’s defense played well despite the outcome, and the defensive line is showing that skill today against a Michigan offense that scored 49 points against Minnesota last week.

What is happening on third down?

On third down, Michigan State’s play calling has been subject to criticism. After Michigan matched the Spartans' touchdown, the MSU offense opted to run on third and four before being stopped behind the line of scrimmage. After a blindside block from Nailor backed the Spartans up to third and 15, the offense opted to run again on third down. 

Considering Michigan State was near midfield, the choice to play conservative is questionable to say the least, especially with the struggles in the run game.

Michigan State Head Coach Mel Tucker has preached that the run game is the key to success for his squad. Despite that, Michigan State has struggled to get much in the run game going in either game this season.

They’ll need this run game to get going, especially if they continue to run in these third and long situations.

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