The Good from the MSU vs. WMU Game
• The Michigan State Defense!
They dominated from the start of the game until the end. They flew from sideline to sideline and north and south. They owned the line and the air. WMU had a great game plan from a young coach who spent a tireless amount of time watching film. I will get into that a lot more when we talk about the MSU quarterbacks.
Coach Fleck knew that his team couldn’t run against the MSU D. So he didn’t try. Now before any of you take that as a slam, it is not at all. Fleck didn’t come in looking for moral victory. He wanted the win and he knew it wasn’t going to happen on the ground. That is why he ran only 36% of the time. A fact MSU DC Pat Narduzzi lamented after the game. “We were expecting them to run the ball a little bit, I thought we’d get a little bit of work at stopping the run, but we didn’t get much of a chance. They just seemed to drop back and chuck it deep every time, but we just really didn’t know what to expect I guess.”
To his credit Fleck knew that he was facing a top five defense in the country and said as much on my radio show on his two visits prior to the game. Saying back in July, “I look at them and I see Alabama. Some can say I am just saying that, but I do. They are going to go after you and challenge you to beat that great defensive back group in single and press coverage.”
So Fleck wasn’t looking for a moral victory to go back to Kalamazoo with. He wasn’t willing to come to East Lansing, cash the check, and go home the sacrificial lamb. He wanted a win. He knew it was a long shot, but if his Broncos had a chance it wasn’t coming with three yards and a cloud of dust.
He knew his only chance was to prepare his wide receivers because Narduzzi was committed to stopping the run. He knew MSU was going to bring heat and pressure when he did try to pass, but with defensive backs on islands his only shot was to catch them making a rare error. If the Broncos had a chance, it was very slim and through the air was where he would have to attack.
Bronco fans should take comfort in a loss, because their coach showed guts with his game plan.
I tweeted how even with the lead and the interceptions Narduzzi kept stacking the box and bringing pressure daring the young Broncos to throw and they did.
48 times the Broncos went to the air. The Spartans picked off three of them. Scored on a pick six on one of them, and the lone fumble was picked up and ran in by the Spartans Shilique Calhoun.
It was the defense being everything we thought it would be. They scored two touchdowns and on one of the interceptions the defense gave the offense the ball at the WMU 12. The anemic offense lost a yard and picked up a field goal from the 13. I give those points to the defense as well.
The other field goal that the Spartans scored, the offense started at the Bronco 31, already in field goal range, and still couldn’t punch it in.
The MSU D accounted for 17 of the Spartans points. You could call it 20, but let’s be generous.
When you watch the tape of this game you truly grasp how good and how dominant the Spartans were and are. It was a clinic.
If there was a disappointing part of the game to the Spartans D it had to come on numbers. They only played 26 players. With the offensive ineptitude they couldn’t get more guys reps. That hurts down the road when injuries come, and they will, and you don’t have guys with significant minutes. We saw that last year.
The Spartans gave up only 11 net yards rushing and when you add back in the yards lost to sacks they still only had 47. This isn’t against a DII school folks, it wasn’t against the best in the MAC either, but still that kind of performance gets over shadowed by how bad the offense was.
Even in the air with 48 attempts, MSU still only gave up 193 net yards, and did that daring them to throw with limited coverage.
If you are looking for a reason to smile from last Friday night you got it in three places and the MSU D was one of them. You could easily say that 20 of the Spartans 26 points were defense generated and NOT offense. Dantonio will say the right things about this being a team and he is correct; a one sided team at this point.
• K Kevin Muma
Muma was very good on kickoffs and made both the PAT attempts that he was allowed (one special teams blunder on a PAT he never got a chance to kick) and nailed both field goals. He was a bright spot for the team. A super young man had a super evening in bad conditions no less.
• P Mike Sadler
Old saddle bags, for the second year in a row, looks like he could be the Spartans best offensive weapon. He booted the ball so well that it made the ghost of Ray Guy stay up and watch.
How good? Once again his numbers are hurt because the defense stopped the Broncos so quickly (just like last year) that he didn’t get many chances to boot some long ones. Of his 11 (yes, I sadly just typed 11) punts he put six inside the 20, three of them were fair caught because of his hang time and one went into the endzone for a touchback. That, my friends, is an NFL performance from the nation’s elite punter and the Spartans best offensive weapon.
So there you go. In article one of the MSU vs. WMU recap, that is the good; the defense and two of the special team specialists.
In our next article coming later today we look at the QB position. Did either play well? I take you inside the WMU game plan and what they saw and exploited, and what it means for MSU moving forward. Is it time for a QB change? Where was Riley and more?