Five positives to take from Game 1
Following Friday night’s 28-6 win against Youngstown State, there were a lot of glum attitudes coming from the No. 17 MSU football team.
Everyone was pretty disappointed with the team’s performance, and although it wasn’t the impressive blowout win the team was expecting, there were still some positives to take from game one.
Here is my top five:
5) Senior wide receiver B.J. Cunningham
It’s only one game, but Cunningham looked poised for a breakout year Friday night. He created separation when he went deep. The way he ran the hitch route was nearly perfect. And his hands were unbelievable.
He finished with a career-high nine receptions and 130 yards with a touchdown reception. He also moved into a tie for first place in the MSU career receptions record with 148.
Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins said Cunningham is the type of receiver that, no matter where he is on the field, draws a quarterback’s attention.
“There were times tonight where B.J. (Cunningham) wasn’t the primary, he wasn’t the secondary, but he was the third or fourth option,” Cousins said after Friday’s game. “But I was getting to him, because he finds ways to get open.”
4) Easily correctable mistakes
There were many instances where the Spartans shot themselves in the foot. On the very first series, the Spartans accumulated 21 yards of total offense; however, a false-start penalty and a dropped snap by Cousins led to a three-and-out.
It was very uncharacteristic of the Spartans, who also fumbled a punt, committed pass interference, and went offsides on 3rd-and-10 to basically hand Youngstown State their only score of the game.
But penalties can be fixed easily. Of all the memories MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said he had of his first game as a Spartan back in 2007, his fondest was the team only being called for three penalties. There’s no doubt the message will be conveyed in practice this week.
3) Sophomore linebacker Max Bullough
Bullough, also known as the Greg Jones replacement.
Jones, a former Spartan linebacker and two-time All-American was lost to graduation and the NFL following last season. The biggest question was on who would replace him.
Well, Bullough was that guy, and rather than being nervous about the shoes he had to fill, he just went out there and performed.
Fifteen tackles in his first start, setting his own career-high and matching that of Jones – who recorded 15 twice.
After the game, Bullough said the number was more indicative of the defense not being able to get off the field. However, with all of the missed tackles, someone had to make the plays, and it was a good sign for the Spartans that it was their middle linebacker.
2) Backfield was its usual self
The Spartans only ran 21 plays in the first half, but the offense still managed to rack up yards and score twice.
How did they manage that? Well, Cousins was his usually efficient self. He completed his first six passes for 114 yards, and sophomore running back Le’Veon Bell and junior running back Larry Caper capped off drives with touchdowns.
Junior running back Edwin Baker also got in on the action — although he didn’t score, he rushed for 91 yards on the night.
Overall Cousins went 18-for-22 with 222 yards and a touchdown, and the offense tallied 396 total yards.
1) Defense buckled down in second half
That first half was miserable for the defense. Although there wasn’t much help from special teams, the defense couldn’t find their way off the field. The Penguins held the ball for nearly 20 minutes and controlled the tempo of the game.
173 yards allowed — 90 of which were rushing — in the first half to a Division I FCS school.
But following halftime, the defense came back out and really put a stop to everything Youngstown State was doing offensively. The Penguins ran 26 plays for only 81 yards in the second half.
The only four Penguins drives went like this: punt-punt-interception-punt.
The second half looked much more like Spartan football, Dantonio said after the game.
“We played much better in the second half,” Dantonio said. “We played with much more emotion.”