A good portion of the first half was sloppy for Michigan State Football in their opening game Friday night. Only scoring seven points in the first 30 minutes, the Spartans needed some time to adjust.
Much like the offense, the MSU defensive unit needed a few drives to settle in. Central Michigan redshirt freshman quarterback Bert Emmanuel Jr. took advantage of the lack of pressure in the middle of the field early on, allowing him to scramble frequently, something the Spartan defense couldn’t figure out.
On Central’s fourth drive of the second quarter, Emmanuel Jr. marched downfield with his rushing attack to set up a red-zone opportunity with a chance to give CMU the lead. On a throwing play, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Chris Parker found the ball in the back middle of the end zone with the coverage arriving too late to put the Chippewas up 7-3 with under two minutes left in the half.
MSU capitalized in the two-minute drill, as redshirt freshman wide receiver Jaron Glover hauled in a 32 and 33 yard reception to set the ball up at the two yard line. Michigan State took a 10-7 lead into halftime as a result.
The defense needed a spark to begin the third quarter in order to take away Emmanuel’s momentum. An interception by redshirt junior linebacker Cal Haladay on Central’s first drive did just that. From there, a tone was set, and adjustments were made to counter the Chippewa’s scrambling attack.
“We just made some adjustments,” Haladay said. "He was fast, he got outside and we just needed to keep him contained, so we try to make sure that we're going for his outside leg, make him try and cut back and keep him in the field.”
MSU adapted to the rushing attack, and forced passing plays more frequently. The defense held Emmanuel Jr. to 19 rushing yards total in the second half, and he finished with 87 passing yards for the game.
Though things clicked on both sides of the ball, the defense didn’t let the initial struggles affect their intensity on the field.
“We kind of just got to focus on our job,” Haladay said. “We want the offense to move the ball. The best defense is the offense running the ball the whole game. But we can’t let that affect the way we play, and we just have to go out and do our job and take care of business.”
With the defense taking pressure off the offense, redshirt junior quarterback Noah Kim began to find his rhythm with his receivers. MSU scored three touchdowns in just over nine minutes in the second half, including two passes from Kim.
The Spartans forced a quarterback change in the middle of the fourth quarter, and stayed resilient makes nothing easy to come by for CMU.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jase Bauer could only do so much for the Chippewas facing an already steep deficit. Michigan State held Bauer to 9 passing yards and 27 rushing yards on three drives to secure the 31-7 win.
"We started slow, but we kept chopping,” Head Coach Mel Tucker said. “We were able to execute in all three phases and get the win.”
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