Spartan running back Javon Ringer is one of the best backs at his position in the country. Most fans would have been happy with the California defense containing Ringer and not allowing outrageous yards on the ground. The Bear defense put the clamps on Ringer and held him to 80 yards on 27 carries. Credit the Bear front seven for doing an outstanding job against the run. Once Cal got a double-digit lead Spartan quarterback Brian Hoyer was forced to go to the air a lot more than head coach Mark Dantonio wanted to.
Last season, as a team, Michigan State ran the ball 567 times and passed the ball 389 times. Sticking to the run is what the Spartans want to do and do best. Obviously, the game plan did not include Hoyer attempting 48 passes on Saturday night. Hoyer completed just 20 of his passes for 321 passing yards.
On the other hand, California backs Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen both ran for over 100 yards and quarterback Kevin Riley was very efficient completing 17 of 24 passes for 202 yards two touchdowns and no interceptions. Cal's passing plays were more successful, because the Spartan defense could not predict when the Bears would throw or run. By the fourth quarter, the Bear defense knew that Hoyer was throwing the ball on every down.
In 2007, Michigan State ran the ball 40 times or more in eight games. The Spartans are use to running the football and anytime you get the Spartans away from what works for them the chances of Michigan State losing increase. Cal's game plan on defense was to take Javon Ringer out of the game. The Bears were successful in limiting Ringer's rushing yards, but California also took Javon out of the Michigan State passing game. Ringer was held to one catch for 17 yards.
The Bears did not sack Hoyer, but Cal was able to hurry the Michigan State quarterback on a consistent basis. A number of his passes were off target because of pressure. Michigan State ended up completing only 41.7% of their passes. The Spartans third down conversion rate was even worse at 38%. Once the Spartans were forced to become one dimensional, Cal was able to sit back late in the game and just make sure they tackled Spartan receivers after they made the catch.
For the majority of the game, the Cal defensive line was able to control the line of scrimmage and allow linebacker Anthony Felder to finish with double-digit tackles. On a couple of occasions, Zack Follett was able to recognize the play and stop Ringer for a loss in the backfield. With the front seven doing a good job, cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson was able to be aggressive and he ended up with an interception that took a scoring opportunity away from the Spartans.
Going forward, if the Bear defense is able to stop the run as they did on Saturday night and continue to get the ball back into the hands of the offense good things will continue to happen for this football team.
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