After getting back from Bloomington early Sunday morning and taking some time to put up some extra post game thoughts of players and Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio. Monday was spent watching the DVR of the Spartans overtime loss to Indiana. After doing so, I can give my final thoughts on what went wrong and what the future may hold.
Last season those who followed the Michigan State Spartans had close games and surprise finishes. This season, back-to-back Big Ten losses, makes this season look to be one of so close yet so far. And when I saw far, I mean far as much must change if this squad is going to have a successful season. Not a championship season, a successful season.
Where should I start?
Folks, the reason this season looks so bad is the fact the Spartans are posting some solid numbers as compared to last season. However, the Spartans are scoring 10.7 points less per game right now as compared to last season. Let’s look at a comparison of the main offensive stats at this stage of the season and after last season.
SCORING OFFENSE: #12 / 22.8 PER GAME - LAST SEASON: #3 / 33.5 PER GAME
RUSHING OFFENSE: #8 / 170.3 PER GAME - LAST SEASON: #5 / 158.0 PER GAME
PASSING OFFENSE: #6 / 236.0 PER GAME - LAST SEASON: #2 / 255.0 PER GAME
TOTAL OFFENSE: #8 / 406.3 PER GAME - LAST SEASON: #3 / 413.0 PER GAME
Total offense is off slightly from 2015 and passing offense is down 19 yards per game. But running the ball the Spartans are a little better this season.
No matter what the numbers might say, many can see something is missing and it’s my opinion it’s the packages being put on the field and numerous missed assignments.
After each game Mark Dantonio tells the media he can really give a solid assessment of what happened until he sees the film. While this is true, it’s easy to see poor play when you go back and watch a poor play in slow motion and see when a back misses a blocking assignment or an offensive lineman does a poor job of pulling and getting into position to seal a lane.
The Spartans went with the following to start the game against the Hoosiers.
David Beedle, Benny McGowan, Brian Allen, Brandon Clemons and Kodi Kieler.
From the first play of the game you can see there are issues with the Spartans offensive line. Beedle has a possible future, however, on several plays he was overmatched or failed to his area and explode his hips into the defender. Have known McGowan since he was in high school and he’s a great kid from a great family. However, the way the Spartans pull their guards, McGowan struggles to get to where he’s expected to be and the play blows up. Kieler is playing at an average level and while he’s got the physical size you want; he lacks the overall athletic ability to be a high level player. Clemons is a serviceable lineman but not a world beater. Allen is the best lineman on the field but he can’t play ever line position. The Spartans have shuffled a few other guys in during games but must find a solid group to start and finish a game even if that means playing younger players.
BIG PLAY MAN
From the start of camp, the Spartans looked to have LJ Scott be the number one back using his size and speed to pound the ball when needed or break the big play. So far Scott’s longest run is 23 yards. Scott has been given the ball 67 times with an average per carry of 4.5 yards. Right now Gerald Holmes and Madre London are playing as well if not better. Holmes had the big run against Notre Dame with London having the longest run against the Hoosiers. Both players averaged two-yards more per carry than Scott did on Saturday night but it was Scott who was in the game at times when a solid run was needed.
FIRST DOWN & THIRD DOWN
We often talk about third down conversions and their importance. However, just as important is how a team performs on first down. The Spartans are struggling on first down and third down as they’ve only converted 38 percent of their third down chances.
DEFENSE HAS ISSUES TOO
Not only are the Spartans suffering from injuries on defense, they are also struggling to make big plays. So far the Spartans have posted five sacks with 14 quarterback hurries. Opponents have posted eight sacks on only 13 quarterback hurries.
One play against the Hoosiers that went the Spartans way but should not have was the Vayante Copeland interception. Montae Nicholson blew his coverage and luckily for the Spartans, Copeland noticed and was able to leave his assignment and pick up the ball in flight and make the play.
THAT IS ALL
I could go on and on with multiple mistakes and missed opportunities the past two weekend. Eight games remain and the first step in taking positive steps forward is to beat the BYU Cougars. This will not be easy despite what the Cougars record shows. Yes, BYU is 2-3 coming off a 55-53 win over Toledo. But their losses are to Utah, UCLA and West Virginia by a combined seven points. Those three teams have a combined record of 11-3 with West Virginia and Utah both ranked in the Top 25. On a positive note, there is some young talent on this team and many of them are getting game action that will help them be better players when they are called upon to take on major roles.