Michigan State Spartans (M.S.U.) (3-1) beat Eastern Michigan Eagles (0-4), 23-7.
Next Game: Michigan State University (3-1) vs. The Ohio State University (4-0), Saturday September 29th at Spartan Stadium, E. Lansing, MI
T.V.: ABC Network at 3:30p.m.
Michigan State saved its best for last on Saturday, outscoring the Eagles 20-0 in the fourth quarter, in route to a 23-7 victory Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium. That’s the good news. The bad news is, the Spartans offense still looks like it’s lost in transition. They’ve gone from a unit that last year exhibited excellent leadership, depth and continuity to one that is now desperately searching to replace all of the above.
After games like this, I can only imagine Coach Dantonio crying heavily as his stereo blasts the 1988 Cinderella hit “You Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s Gone” with photos of Kirk Cousin, Keyshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham surrounding him. Under the watchful eye of their leader Cousins and with the help of two exceptional wide receivers, the M.S.U. offense broke school records for passing touchdowns (25) and total receptions for a receiver (79 for B.J. Cunningham) last season. For his career, Cousins also holds the Spartan records for most passing yards (3,086) and pass completions (218). It’s no surprise that Cousins, Cunningham and Martin were all taken in last April’s N.F.L. draft. What is shocking is how long it’s taking for the latest quarterback to wide receiver(s) combination to develop at M.S.U.
New QB Andrew Maxwell is starting to show signs of being able to hit open targets and has connected on a somewhat regular basis with TE Dion Sims; although even Sims had a dropped pass today. Regrettably his other receivers aren’t as accomodating as they dropped seven passes against the worst secondary they’ll see the rest of the season. Catching passes against the Eagles defense is one step above non-contact practice drills and Bennie Fowler, Tony Lippett, DeAnthony Arnett and Keith Mumphrey still didn’t come up with several easy ones. To add insult to injury, Fowler fumbled one of his four catches on his own 23, which led to the Eagles lone touchdown of the day. In the new age of football where airing it out is key to any teams success, this 2012 Spartans team simply doesn’t have enough wind to make it their third consecutive season with double digit wins (11 in 2010 and 2011).
Athletes, coaches and prognosticators always harp on how important leadership is. M.S.U. is finding out the hard way, as another aspect of losing Cousins is showing up on the field. During the post-game interview Coach Dantonio alluded to having to give his team a good old fashioned thrashing at halftime to wake them up. Down 7-3 to a 0-3 Mid-American Conference foe, it was the coaching staff that had to gear up the players to prevent them from suffering what would have been the most humiliating team lose during Dantonio’s tenure.
What’s revealing about this is that the team wasn’t called to account by their own leaders. Cousins and company didn’t allow poor play and low expectations to be the standard in years past. More than anything, this Spartans team is hurting from inexperience and maturity from the traditional leadership position, the quarterback. While Maxwell’s play hasn’t been completely awful, it remains to be seen if he has the skill set and more importantly the personality and attitude to challenge and lead his teammates.
The Spartans survived today because their offense put together one solid quarter of play and their defense played per usual. The Big Ten showed its ineptitude again today (Iowa losing at home to Central Michigan University 32-31!), and for that reason I’m still confident the Spartans can win their share of Big Ten contests. I’m not sure counting on watered down conference opponents is anything to celebrate, but when a game vs. the Eastern Eagles makes you sweat it out until the fourth quarter, you take what you can get.
About the Author
Written by Andre' Wiegand
A life long Michigan State University Spartan fan! My grandfather played on the Spartan O-Line back in 1951 and my family has been Spartan fans since. 1999 M.S.U. graduate (JMC). Currently live in Grand Rapids, MI with my wife and two sons.