WHERE: SPARTAN STADIUM, 12:00 NOON EST.)
ALL TIME RECORD: MSU leads 3-2)
IN SPARTAN STADIUM: MSU leads 3-2)
LAST MEETING: Sept. 8, 2001, MICHIGAN STATE 35, )
CENTRAL MICHIGAN 21 LAST CMU WIN: CMU 24, MSU 20 (Sept. 12, 1992))
FIRST MEETING: CMU 20, MSU 3 (Sept. 14, 1991))
NOTEWORTHY: Michigan State built a 28-7 halftime lead, but Central Michigan's James King tied an NCAA single game record, blocking four MSU punts
(EAST LANSING, MI)- Michigan State understood going into New Jersey to play the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers was going to be tougher than expected. The Spartans knew Rutgers had 39 lettermen returning and they knew that QB Ryan Hart would be able to make plays in coach Greg Schiano's offense.
But the Spartans didn't expect that they would have to overcome both the Scarlet Knights and themselves. Dropped passes, penalties and missed opportunties doomed the Spartans to an opening loss on the road.
Coach John L. Smith says his number one priority, going into the team's home opener against the Chippewas of Central Michigan is to reduce the number of costly mental mistakes.
"Number one is to correct the penalties," said Smith. "We can't go to the field and create the penalties and keep doing that over and over."
Smith stressed personal accountability in the walkup to tommorrow's contest.
"It's got to be a personal thing," Smith explained. "In fact, we talked to our players [and we said] 'we can yell at you all we want, we can make you run and all those things, but you all have to take it personal and you've got to be focused enough.' If you allow yourself to get away with those things and we allow it to happen in practice, it's going to happen during the game."
The Spartans committed 10 costly penalties for 73 yards, stymying the offense's chances to put points on the board and contributing to Rutgers scoring drives.
Smith said after getting the penalty situation under control, the next item for correction is missed opportunties, particularly dropped passes.
"The other thing is we have to be more focused and catch the football," stated Smith. "We can't afford, with what we do offensively, to go to the field and put that many balls on the ground. When the ball is there, you have to make the catch."
Smith's point is well taken. Tight end Eric Knott, wide receivers Agim Shabaj and Matt Trannon all contributed dropped passes stalling Spartan drives. In addition, starting quarterback Damon Dowdell missed several receivers, including a wide open Jerramy Scott in the end zone which would have given the Green and White the lead late in the ball game.
The Spartans head coach stressed the need for MSU to be balanced and not abandon the run, even if they fall behind. "We'd like to see [the team] be able to continue to run the football. And I think that is 'us' the coaching staff). We've got to make more of an effort, as coaches, to continue to say we're going to run the football, and we will, because I thought we did a good job [running the ball]. I thought we got 'push' up front and I thought for the most part we were establishing the run but we have to continue to do that." The Spartans were led by junior Jason Teague who rushed for 79 yards on 13 carries(6.1 per carry average), but Smith said he intends to get big freshman Jehuu Calucrick into the game this week.
The problem doesn't fall only on the offense, Smith said while the defense played "OK", he needs them to make more plays. "On the defensive side we have to be more 'right' all of the time." Smith indicated he was happy with the play of linebacker Ronald Stanley who led the Spartans with 19 tackles and safety Jason Harmon who added 10 tackles and a pick.
Smith further indicated the problem with mental mistakes may be partly the fault of the coaching staff. Especially with so many young players -including freshman - in the playing group, the coach feels there may be a need to simplify the schemes on offense and defense so players don't have to grasp so much, so quickly.
"There's just way too many mistakes and maybe we have to pare back a little bit in some of the things we're doing so we don't have mental breakdowns. We'll put up with the physical mistake, but not a mental mistake. That points the finger back at 'us' (the coaching staff). So we're trying to correct all those things this week."
MSU will face a Central Michigan squad that lost to a comparable Big Ten team, Indiana 41-10.
New head coach Brian Kelly, who guided Division I-AA Grand Valley to two national championships, has his work cut out for him trying to rebuild the Chippewa program into a contender.
"The biggest thing I'm asking my football team is not to lose the same way again," said Kelly. "If we improve in every one of those categories, we'll have a great chance to go to MSU and get a win."
Kelly does have an experienced offensive line, returning two seniors and one junior across the offensive front, but he wants more playmakers from his team.
"I was not surprised with [sophomore running back] Jerry [Seymore's] play,(21 carries, 111 yards, 6 catches, 62 yards)" said Kelly. "He's our one playmaker right now and we have to find a way to take the load off him. We need some of our receivers to step up and make some plays. We also need to solidify the quarterback position. We need to find somebody to run the offense."
ANALYSIS: While Michigan State runs a spread offense, look for it to put more emphasis on the running game vs. a weak Chippewa defense. The Spartans will try to control the clock in an effort to wear down the CMU defense. MSU doesn't want to put the game in the hands of likely starter Damon Dowdell who missed an opportunity to pull out a win against Rutgers in the season opener. While they fell Dowdell can manage a game effectively, they don't want to rely on him to win the game.
MSU will take more chances against Central defensively. With the return of junior Eric Smith to the starting lineup, MSU believes they can leave their corners to handle the less than stellar CMU wideouts. State could assign bandits Tyrell Dortch and SirDarean Adams to "spy" Central star tailback Jerry Seymore in an effort to stymie the only "Chip" to step forward.
PICK: Look for MSU to control the clock and control the ball while making some chunk plays down the middle of the Chippewa defense. Defensively, look for Smith, Harmon and Stanley to lead a charge to throttle the CMU offense and get the Spartans back on the field.
MSU gets back a measure of respect. Michigan State 31 - Central Michigan 17