It was opening weekend for college football and the Spartans of Michigan State opened with a convincing 38-14 victory over Western Michigan University. They got off to a sluggish start, but eventually took the game over in the 2nd quarter and cruised to a win. Edwin Baker got the Spartans on the board in the first quarter with a 28 yard touchdown run. MSU established the run early, while Kirk Cousins was trying to get into a rhythm. He started the game 2-7 and seemed a little too amped up, as he had trouble with his accuracy to begin the game. The defense played well in the first, but was scored upon with seven seconds left in the quarter, on a play that should never have happened. The play previous to the touchdown, Greg Jones had an interception go right through his hands that would have ended the drive and gave the ball back to the Spartans on the twenty yard line. Instead, it seemed as if MSU was going to be in a battle all day long, with the score tied 7-7 after the first.
MSU began to assert its’ dominance in the 2nd quarter, as they scored three times to take a 28-7 lead going into halftime. Keith Nichol made an outstanding (Rod Allen reference for all you Detroit Tigers fans out there) 20 yard touchdown grab, as he went up between two Broncos defenders and came down with the ball. Edwin Baker scored his second of the game on a 7 yard run and true freshman Le’Veon Bell added another on 2 yard run with seven seconds left in the 2nd quarter. The defense held up throughout the first half, in which at times they looked very good and other times, not so much. This held true in the 2nd half also, where they gave up a 2 yard touchdown pass and only outscored the Broncos 10-7. Bell was the only player to score for MSU in the 2nd half, as he punched one in from 18 yards out. Also, sophomore kicker Dan Conroy finished off the scoring for the Spartans with a 33 yard field goal in his first ever attempt on the collegiate level.
The secondary was disappointing, as they looked soft and unable to make many plays behind the front seven. They do tackle well, which is always a positive, but they still struggle in pass coverage. The linebackers played decently well, lead by Jones and Eric Gordon. The defensive line has some work to do in getting more pressure on the quarterback and Blake Treadwell coming back this week should help. The defense did force three turnovers (1 interception and 2 forced fumbles), and only gave up 85 rushing yards on 32 attempts. There are both great signs for a defense that ranked 73rd in total defense and 93rd in turnover margin last season.
The offense was very good and Kirk Cousins looks like he has what it takes to lead the Spartans to a New Year’s Day bowl game this year. He has a rocket for an arm and subsequently can make any throw on the field. The running game was a pleasant surprise also, as the Spartans had two 100 yard rushers in the same game for the first time since 2004. Baker finished the day with 117 yards on 17 carries and Bell had 141 yards on 10 carries. If MSU can continue to establish a run and Cousins keeps getting better every week, the Spartans will definitely have one of the most balanced offenses in the nation. To be honest, Cousins did not even need to throw the ball at all this weekend, as Michigan State completely outmanned the Broncos defensive line. This is a testament to how well the offensive line played and how dominant the running game was throughout. The one area that must immediately change for the Spartans to have any hope of winning 10 games is penalties. They had 11 for 69 yards and looked as if John L. Smith was still roaming the sideline. This is unacceptable and I know Coach Dantonio will remedy this situation real quickly. It was a good start to the season and this team will only get better as time goes on… Next game: vs. Florida Atlantic at Ford Field and a preview to follow.
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Written by David Lesmeister