Spartans’ Big Win and Show Big Upside Against Boise State…
I am a realist. I live in realville. Sometimes that doesn’t coexist with college sports. With today’s modern social media people can spew opinions all over and in many ways. Even when emotion doesn’t work with reality, it can be frustrating.
I have no issue taking apart player and teams when warranted, but to do so with integrity and character, you must separate from emotion and make sure those critiques are accurate. Last night, all of us would have liked to see the Spartans execute crisper and all play like seasoned seniors. They didn’t, but I left the High Cathedral of the Spartan Nation excited about several things.
If you don’t believe me, you can simply go back and look at my Twitter account. When the Spartans were at their lowest point last night I Tweeted that MSU would win. It is impossible to have watched that game with any objectivity and not see that MSU had the better team. The Spartans were the biggest hindrance to their success. Let’s talk about it.
- The biggest thing that stood out to me is that the Boise program is considered the most offensive innovative in the
nation. With Mike Leach returning to college football at Washington State that still rings true. Coach Petersen has a proven track record of success. MSU held them to a measly 206 total offensive yards; 206 yards and only one sack. That is an amazing stat. If I had told you that MSU would hold Boise to only 206 yards, I bet anyone with a football IQ of more than 12 would have said, “I’ll take it.” Coach Petersen said of that MSU stout D, “The problems start with 24 rushes for 37 yards. Michigan State has a really good run defense
and one of the top defenses in the country.”
- The MSU offense could have been much sharper, but they garnered 461 yards of total offense. We would have loved that number even if Joe Montana was the QB. Before you cite LeVeon’s amazing stats remember this. Maxwell had 58% completion percentage to go along with 248 yards of passing. I didn’t expect him to throw for that many yards before the game and I expect him to be great. He can’t control the way balls get tipped. Were all of his throws great? Of course not, but for his first start, coming against a top 25 program, he threw for 248 yards and had a 58% completion percentage. If you would have asked any coach in the nation if he would take those stats with a new QB they would have jumped on it. Three interceptions stink. Two of which aren’t on him. Max Bullough said of Maxwell’s performance, “I had confidence in the offense and in Maxwell. He did have some unfortunate interceptions, but some weren’t even his fault with tipped balls. I thought our offensive line played well.”
- Even though some fans via internet or social media went off the reservation, the team sure didn’t. Watching the sideline closely, it was a sign of maturity and chemistry that impressed me. At one point, with the offense struggling I saw something from Isaiah Lewis that truly impressed me. I have been a longtime advocate of Lewis. He has at times demonstrated some immaturity, but he is not a bad kid. As talented as he is, the Spartans don’t need him being immature. Going on the field after a failure from the offense, he was talking with offensive players and this time he was an encourager. He told me about that. “Yeah it’s true. I have grown up. I need to. Those are my guys (offense) and I needed them to know it was good. They were going to be all right.” Out of everything I saw and noticed last night it was the most impressive thing. This team is in it for the long haul. They are united. That sideline showed no sign of concern,
fear, losing, or any other negativity. Anyone that has had to lead and been any good at it knows that there are times you have to give a kick in the rear and a time you just stay the course. There wasn’t any sign of frustration from the staff on down. I have seen teams disintegrate when they have one side of the ball as dominant as the Spartan D and one side as inexperienced as the offense and they split. It wasn’t there. Not even close.
- Tony Lippett. It would be more than fair to say that he has real reps under his skin and he can’t make the mistakes that he did last night. He didn’t have a bad game, he had a horrible game. The Spartans still found a way to win. Lippett is a freak of nature physically. I have told this story many times, but let me remind you of something. When the Spartans play UM, each and every week he runs the scout
team. Two years ago Greg Jones and his teammates came off the field after one series fired up saying about Robinson, “He isn’t as good as Tony.” They weren’t being jerks to Dennard, they were praising how good their teammate truly is. No one feels as bad this morning as
Lippett. He cares. This young man has physical skills that 99.9% of us who read this never will. The Spartans need him. People have bad days or bad games. He got meaningful reps and made major mistakes. No excuses for that, but I have no doubts that he will progress, work hard, and be fine. Some of the comments I read disgusted me. That young man had a bad game. I don’t argue that, but that young man is needed by this team and that young man will put in the effort to get there. B.J. Cunningham was not the WR we know now when he was young in his career. Not even close. Not to be mention Keshawn Martin, Keith Nichol, or Blair White. All of them struggled as young players and none of them have the skill set of Lippett. He will be fine. Remember Greg Jones. He wasn’t even a starter early. National TV, an amazing environment, and a summer of pressure are a lot for a young player to deal with. I know the talent he
has. I know the skill set. Lippett will be fine.
- Great teams find ways to win. Had MSU performed like it did last night against a CMU, EMU, or Youngstown I would have said they have issues. They didn’t. Remember they beat a top 25 team with one of the best coaches in the nation and some great players. They didn’t panic. They found a way to win when their biggest opponent wasn’t the Broncos, it was themselves.
- Dantonio makes a statement. With under four minutes left in the first quarter, MSU was facing a fourth and one at their own 36. No hesitation, no waiting, Mark Dantonio told this young team what he thought of them. We have seen Dantonio with past teams in much more favorable settings punt the ball. Not now and not with this team. He went for it and got it. The entire game he coached them hard, the entire game he didn’t panic, and they knew they would win. That panic, that implosion are all gone. Good team and good programs find ways to win and the Spartans did.
- I had some actually email and ask, “Why is our OL so bad? They can’t block anyone.” This team had 461 yards of offense, 213 of it rushing and they can’t block? Boise showed some great new packages with some unbalanced blitzing and other schemes. Sure, you saw Maxwell having to rush at times, but when you have four or five guys out on pass plays and the defense gambles and sends six or seven guys,
you expect that. It is part of the strategy of the game.
- With MSU up 17-13 and the game not in doubt, Dantonio instructed his offense to take a knee at the one yard line. We know that
many schools don’t do that. We know that fans want him to improve the margin of victory. That isn’t his way. MSU had fought a valiant opponent and Dantonio showed respect. To me that was another great statement by a great coach. If you are a Spartan, that had to make you proud. Dantonio is all about winning, but he is also all about respect; for the game, for the opponent, and for his team. I thought that was an overlooked action. It also told his team that they won, but didn’t have to rub it in.
- Prior to Dantonio’s arrival, this was a game they would have lost. The team would have imploded and fans would have booed and left. That crowd as amazing. They stayed and fed off the optimism of the bench. Sure they wanted more, but so did the players and the staff. There are such high expectations (and should be) that when young players made mistakes it didn’t fit neatly into those expectations.
- The Spartans came through relatively healthy. There were some aches and pains, but the way the pads were popping I expected a lot worse. Only one true freshman played. That was LS Taybor Pepper, who was brilliant I might add. That says a lot of good things about the future. We still have a long way to go and that might change, but that was a great sign for the future.
- With the Spartans trailing in the fourth quarter young Maxwell stepped on the field with 12:40 on the clock. He wasn’t panicked. He wasn’t frightened and he wasn’t rattled. He led the Spartans on a big time nine play, 56 yard drive for the game winning score.
He went three for three on the drive. He had a critical hot read on a second three that went for the completion to Sims when the Broncos blitzed from that side. After the defense stopped Boise on their next possession Maxwell led the Spartans on to the field. Thee was 6:32 on the clock and his Spartans were ahead by four. Maxwell used great reads to lead the Spartans on a clock draining 12 play, 52 yard 6:32 drive to end the game. He finished strong and so did the Spartans.
- I was highly critical all last season and all off season calling the staff’s inability to get more reps for Maxwell last year a failure. I said last season, “There is no excuse for this staff not to get more reps for Andrew Maxwell. Next season he will take the reins of this program with very little experience on a team that will have enormous expectations and potential. There will be a fog of experience early so why not pay that price this year. If this team has QB issues early, and they will if they don’t get him more and better reps this season, that blame is on
the shoulders of this coaching staff.” BINGO! You saw Maxwell perform well, but you also saw some fog of experience. People need to also remember he missed most of the spring. If you are a fan of this team and you aren’t fired up after last night I would ask if you hold yourself to the same standards in your personal life. Tweets, emails, and messages attacking a passing attack that is this young and still performed at that level with all that inexperience against a very good program will never be appy. You are unrealistic and I bet if
you applied those standards in your personal/work life you would come up everely wanting and lacking.
So, my thoughts? uffy said a team makes their biggest improvement from game one to game wo. This is a great football team. They have a lot of areas they can mprove. They also have come a long way. They are the hunted. They are truly no longer just a team, they re a program. Not a good week to e a Chippewa, but a great week to be a Spartan. A great win over a great rogram. A great opportunity to get better, but nowhere near the journey that his team had just six years ago.