Scott Reed - Spartan Digest

Spartan Digest analyzes the game and hands out the grades from Michigan State’s victory over Notre Dame.

Spartan Digest analyzes the game and hands out the grades from Michigan State’s victory over Notre Dame at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday night.

QUARTERBACK

How good was Michigan State Spartans quarterback Tyler O’Connor’s performance against Notre Dame?  Really good when you go back and look at the past two performances by Spartan quarterbacks against the Irish. 

Andrew Maxwell in 2012 went 23-of-45 for 187 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions in a 20-3 loss in Spartan Stadium.

Connor Cook in 2013 went 16-of-32 for 135 yards, one touchdown and one interception in another Spartans loss as they fell 17-13 at Notre Dame.

O’Connor did have the interception mistake but overall out played the previous two Spartan signal callers hitting on 73-percent of his throws as compared to 51-percent by Maxwell and 50-percent by Cook.  The two touchdowns were better than the Maxell and Cook combined and you could see O’Connor making this his team when it was needed.

While we hope to see O’Connor not take so many hits when he does run the football, we like his toughness and moxie and his overall performance as he moves to 3-0 as a starter at MSU.  O’Connor now has two road wins against ranked teams. Grade: A

RUNNING BACK

Coming up two yards short of having two backs with 100 yards each is a major feat against any team.  To do it on the road with a young offensive line adds even more to the accomplishment.  Gerald Holmes posted most of his yards on his 73-yard touchdown and added a second touchdown run.  He also averaged 7.7 yards per carry in the process of recording his second career 100 yard effort.  LJ Scott added 98 yards and a touchdown just missing his second 100-yard game of the season.  It was a very good performance but we feel they can be better.  Grade: A-

WIDE RECEIVERS / TIGHT ENDS

The spotlight is shining on freshman Donnie Corley for his great touchdown to put the Spartans on the board.  But the Kings High product also had the game-sealing catch when he pulled in a 28-yard receptions as the Spartans were trying to keep from giving the Irish the ball back when they were faced with a third-and-7 from the MSU 17.  In the end Corley posted 88 total yards receiving joining R.J. Shelton with 80 total yards and a touchdown.  Add in Monty Madaris with 40 yards on two catches and Josiah Price adding 24 yards on two receptions.  Overall it was a very solid performance from a group that entered the season with many questions.  Grade: A

OFFENSIVE LINE

Giving up no sacks on the road while also moving linemen around during the game is a major accomplishment in its own right.  Having two backs almost post 100 yards rushing each and winning the line of scrimmage allows this young group to pick up a solid grade.  Grade: A

DEFENSIVE LINE

Malik McDowell, Demetrius Cooper and Raequan Williams all came up big against the Irish.  All three posted tackles for loss with the biggest one coming from Williams late in the fourth quarter forcing the Irish to punt the ball away with the Spartans never giving it back.  Others played their roles but improvement must be seen entering Big Ten play.  But how do you give a bad grade when you know this group played a role in holding the Irish to 57-yards rushing.  Grade: B

LINEBACKERS

Jon Reschke was the defensive player of the game for the Spartans with his hand in eight tackles that included a tackle for loss, forced fumble and interception.  Andrew Dowell continues to improve and was second on the team with four tackles that included a sack and Riley Bullough also posted four tackles with one being for a loss.  Chris Frey posted three quarterback hurries and Shane Jones also posted stats.  This group as a whole was the top for the defense.  Grade: A

SECONDARY

Everyone expected DeShone Kizer to get his numbers and he did.  However, it took some work as the Irish looked to go after Vayante Copeland and Darian Hicks.  Copeland did give up the touchdown in the end zone but it took a perfect thrown ball and great catch and foot placement to count.  Montae Nicholson had the fumble recovery to go with three tackles and Demetrious Cox posted two stops.  Grade: B-

SPECIAL TEAMS

Jake Hartbarger averaged 42 yards per his seven punts and placed two of them inside the 20-yard line.  Michael Gieger became the Spartans all-time leader in PATs with his 165-th before adding two more giving his 167 during his career.  Kevin Cronin averaged over 63 yards per kickoff with two touchbacks but did have one kick go out of bounds.  However, the real weakness comes in the return game where the Spartans don’t have much to talk about.  Add in the opening play where it looked like the Irish were going to jump out front on the kickoff return before it being called back, and there is still work needed overall.  Grade: B-

COACHING

The Spartans had two weeks to prepare and showed in the third quarter they could be dominating on offense.  Early parts of the game saw the offense go into a no-huddle mode pushing pressure but right when you thought the Spartans could blow open the game in the third quarter the offense sputtered as they looked to not make mistakes.  Overall you can’t argue with a win as impressive as this one was and have to give the staff a high grade overall for a game plan fully executed and a road win as the underdog.  Grade: A+


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