Thursday, September 16, 2021

Preview: MSU Football not looking past Youngstown State

September 10, 2021
	<p>Youngstown State quarterback Kurt Hess steps up in the pocket as sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun goes in for the sack Sept. 14, 2013 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans had a strong showing against Youngstown State in a 55-17 victory. Khoa Nguyen/ The State News</p>

Youngstown State quarterback Kurt Hess steps up in the pocket as sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun goes in for the sack Sept. 14, 2013 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans had a strong showing against Youngstown State in a 55-17 victory. Khoa Nguyen/ The State News

Photo by Khoa Nguyen | The State News

Michigan State is entering week two at 1-0 after a strong win in the opener on the road against Northwestern. MSU will be playing their home opener on Saturday in front of a full Spartan Stadium for the first time since 2019 when they take on Youngstown State at noon on Saturday. 

There is a lot of anticipation in East Lansing for game day with the return of tailgates and other festivities, but the game itself has flown under the radar.

Michigan State is starting its non-conference schedule with a Youngstown State team that was 1-6 last season, which was played in the spring of 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic rather than the typical fall schedule.

The Spartans still are not looking past Youngstown State despite a looming road trip to Miami. The coaching staff and the players have reiterated throughout the week that this is a big game and are not looking past the Penguins. 

“It doesn't matter who we're playing,” tight end Connor Heyward said. “We're gonna go out there and execute to the highest ability. Whether it's the team’s number three in the country or the team's 40th in this country,  we're gonna go out there with the mindset to dominate.”

MSU is looking to build off of the promising start to the year and move to 2-0. The win against Northwestern showed that Michigan State has a capable starting quarterback in Payton Thorne as well as weapons around him to have a formidable offense. The team has the talent to be able to play at a high level on both sides of the ball and now they need to show that they can reach that level consistently against Youngstown State.

Head Coach Mel Tucker said he is making sure the team is prepared to avoid a letdown and treat the game like it is the biggest game on the schedule. 

“We've already started our preparation on Y-town, YSU, yesterday and today, but we need to keep up the intensity and the focus throughout this week in order to give ourselves the best chance to improve and put our best foot forward,” Tucker said.

Scouting The Opponent

Youngstown State also won their opener to the 2021 campaign with a last-second drive to force overtime against FCS opponent Incarnate Word 44-41. It was a nice bounce back to start the season after the Penguins went 1-6 in the spring. 

Youngstown State won the game because of its potent rushing game, much like Michigan State in week one. Starting running back Jaleel McLaughlin ran for 242 yards and two touchdowns and starting quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw added 81 yards on the ground on 20 attempts. They ran the ball 61 times, or 83.5% of their snaps, in week one. Crenshaw only attempted 12 passes in the game for 112 yards.

The Youngstown State defense, however, is not nearly as dangerous as its offense. The Penguins surrendered 495 total yards to Incarnate Word—352 of them through the air—and 41 points. Michigan State’s offense is probably a few levels above Incarnate Word’s and could thrive against the Youngstown State defense that looked like swiss cheese in week one.

MSU is 2-0 all-time against Youngstown State and will play them for the first time since 2013, where the Spartans won 55-17 to start the season. Kickoff is at noon at Spartan Stadium and the game will be aired on the Big Ten Network. 

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