Tuesday, June 25, 2024

HALF: Michigan State in a dogfight with Rutgers, leads 14-7

November 12, 2022
<p>Spartan defense blocks a Rutgers offensive drive down the field during the match on Nov. 12, 2022. </p>

Spartan defense blocks a Rutgers offensive drive down the field during the match on Nov. 12, 2022. 

Despite dominating in total yards, time of possession and total plays, Michigan State went to the locker room with just a seven-point lead against Rutgers. 

Redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne threw for 172 yards and a touchdown, completing 13 of 23 attempts. On the other side of the ball, sophomore Cal Haladay had a team-high 10 tackles at the half, as well as 0.5 TFLs. 

Balanced offense

Although it hasn’t been great all season, Michigan State’s ground game finally found some success in the first half against Rutgers. Averaging under 100 yards per game in the season, the Spartans had 111 rushing yards at the half. Fifth-year senior running back Jarek Broussard was the leading rusher, earning 50 yards on eight carries. 

Finding some effectiveness on the ground, Michigan State was able to find success through the air as well. Distributing the ball to seven different targets, all of the Spartans’ weapons seemed to be involved in the offense at the half. 

While multiple receivers found the ball through the first 30 minutes, fifth-year senior tight end Daniel Barker was a favorite target of Thorne in the first half. The Illinois transfer went into the locker room with three receptions, 56 yards and a touchdown. He scored the Spartan's first touchdown of the afternoon, knifing through the middle of the defense and catching a wide-open 26-yard pass.

Front seven playing well

With attrition aplenty – injuries and eight suspended players – Michigan State’s defense continued to build off last week’s impressive showing with a solid first half against Rutgers. 

Despite missing players across the line, the Spartans’ front seven was perhaps the strongest part of the defense through the first thirty minutes. MSU finished the first half with three TFLs, a sack and four quarterback hurries. There wasn't just one player sticking out on the unit – even the underclassmen showed up on the stat sheet.

Michigan State consistently applied pressure to the opposing quarterback, forcing scrambles and throws under pressure on multiple occasions. With plenty of “havoc” plays causing chaos in the backfield, Rutgers' offense struggled to find consistency. Rutgers’ sophomore quarterback Gavin Wimsatt finished with a paltry 62 yards and a touchdown. 

Struggling to stop the running 

While the Spartans did a great job halting the Scarlet Knight’s air attack, the visitors found plenty of success on the ground. Led by sophomore running back Kyle Monangai’s 95 yards, Rutgers went into the locker room with 144 rushing yards. 

A majority of those yards were picked up by large chunk plays, flipping the field or vastly improving field position. When the offense stalled out for the Scarlet Knights, the answer seemed to be a simple run to the edges of the defense. 

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