Notebook: YSU edition

The Spartans focused in on figuring out some offensive line combinations and showed more variety offensively on Saturday. More thoughts on who stood out and why.

Taking a look at what I noticed and what stood out in Michigan State's 55-17 win against Youngstown State:

**A week after knowing less at quarterback than I thought possible, it appears Connor Cook has a strong hold on the position. He looked much more confident throughout much of the game, despite having some of his occasional baffling throws. He cut down the mistakes and made some really good throws.

**Tony Lippett was really solid. He tied for a team-high four catches, including a great third-down grab on a dart from O'Connor. He didn't have any catches entering the game, but was effective against YSU.

**Bennie Fowler showed the speed expected of him throughout his career. He shed weight in the offseason and looked quick Saturday, gaining yards after catch, breaking tackles and getting yardage on a reverse, too.

**The offensive line took advantage of playing some smaller, less athletic defensive linemen to work some things out. The tackles were used in a variety of combinations, with Jack Conklin/Fou Fonoti, Donavon Clark/Jack Conklin and Donavon Clark/Fou Fonoti being the combinations involving players considered starters. Clark did much better than the past couple weeks in pass blocking, but I thought MSU was most effective with the Conklin/Fonoti combination.

**On a very critical take, the Spartans had three drops. I counted no legitimate drops. A couple passes that would have been very impressive catches did hit hands (i.e. R.J. Shelton in the end zone from Tyler O'Connor).

**Speaking of Shelton, the Spartans looked to him in the passing game this week later in the game. That will be an important element to his game if MSU is serious about using him. You can't have him be a jet sweep and play fake guy alone because it will be too obvious for opposing defenses. His development in that area was something I noted would be big last week and it was good to see him downfield a couple times despite not having a reception.

**Some noted the absence of DeAnthony Arnett and that walk-on Matt Macksood even got on the field. There are two possible conclusions: 1. Arnett has really fallen out of favor. 2. He is being redshirted. I think the latter is what is happening right now. He played against WMU, but hasn't been seen since. In a deep group of WRs, keeping some talent around longer is a good move especially if it helps his future.

**Youngstown State used a lot of misdirection and the like to use the MSU defense's aggressiveness against itself. Nothing new there. Screen passes and misdirection are good ways to play against an aggressive defense, but MSU adjusted and shut down the Penguins.

**Seeing Connor Kruse get in at center was nice. With Jack Allen back from injury and starting and Travis Jackson out injured – though he is expected back next week – having a backup with experience is important.

**I was a big fan of much of the play calling … a pleasant change from previous weeks. Going to the air after Shilique Calhoun's fumble recovery was awesome. That is the type of thing MSU didn't do last year, but is important to really seize momentum in future games.

**YSU stayed away from Darqueze Dennard for the most part. They went after Trae Waynes early and he was beaten by his man both times, but showed the speed to recover and knock the ball loose or deliver a hit.

**The Spartans made a concerted effort to get Jamal Lyles involved in the passing game. With having just moved over from defensive end, testing what he is capable of is essential and with the game well in hand, MSU worked with Lyles. He had a couple catches, including a great sliding one that was thrown behind him by O'Connor. O'Connor said after the game they miscommunicated on the play, but straightened it out in the huddle.


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