Play solid assignment-based defense: B-
Up and down is a good way to put this area, so it gets a B-. There were points that Michigan State was very sound, but too many where it was bad. Blown coverages led to too many points for Oregon and big plays came too easily for a defense that is known for being so good, particularly in the secondary.
Take care of the ball: C
Michigan State was minus-2 in the turnover department because of Connor Cook’s two interceptions. One was a spectacular diving play by Ifo Ekpre-Olomu on a tipped pass, but the other was just a bad throw by Cook into coverage. Both turnovers led to touchdowns for the Ducks.
Tackling of defensive ends and secondary: D
This was the area that the Spartans really needed to do better. The defensive ends lost contain too many times, leading to big third down conversions and extended drives that led to points. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota definitely is very elusive, but the Spartans had many opportunities to bring him down and whiffed. That was as big a factor in deciding the outcome as any. Sidenote: Marcus Rush did have a big game with 11 tackles and a sack, but it came back to the plays that the group as a whole did not make.
Build a first-half lead: A
Michigan State got this one by the skin of their teeth, scoring with 18 seconds left in the first half to take the lead. It was important with Oregon coming back with the ball in the second half, but the lead was not built upon as it should have been early in the second. A huge second-quarter performance was impressive for Michigan State.
Run blocking: B
For much of the game, Michigan State won at the line of scrimmage. Oregon’s defense did play well and held the Spartans to 123 yards rushing and just 3.4 yards per carry, but the blocking was better than last week – minus the bizarre “all five linemen cut block” play that failed miserably.
Cook had a big game with a career-high in yards with 343 and Tony Lippett had another 100 yards receiving game. That pair has been potent early. Josiah Price also had a very good game for Michigan State with five catches for 51 yards and a touchdown.
It is hard to say the offense did enough to win since it only really played great for a quarter or so, but generally 27 points is enough to get a win for the Spartans. From losing contain too often to blown coverages, this was a tough performance for the MSU defense.
Special Teams: B
Michael Geiger hit both his field-goal attempts and Mike Sadler punted the ball pretty well. Something that is slightly troubling is the lack of kick return so far this year with MacGarrett Kings and also the punt coverage was not great against Oregon. This group’s grade was saved by R.J. Shelton’s huge 59-yard kickoff return.