I figured that Michigan State’s 2012 season opener against Boise State would be no cakewalk. I just didn’t count on MSU’s offensive line and new QB Andrew Maxwell playing as poorly as they did. Without 44 carries, 210 yards and 2 TDs from RB Le’Veon Bell along with a stifling defense, the Spartans would have certainly lost, although BSU wasn’t very impressive.
The Spartans returned only 4 starters on offense, all on the offensive line. Common sense would tell you that if there was any clear offensive strength, it would be on the offensive line. Yet, the Boise St. defense gave Maxwell fits all game long. Maxwell constantly found himself being pressured and blitzed and didn’t always handle it well. He threw 3 interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, but only the first wasn’t his fault.
His receivers weren’t much better, dropping a few balls and even putting one on the turf. Luckily, there was Le’Veon Bell. The 245-lb bulldozer who I thought should have started over 2012 NFL Draft pick and former Spartan Edwin Baker in 2011 was a man among boys once the two teams settled in. Bell was not a one-dimensional back, either. He also had 6 catches for 55 yards and threw arguably the most important block during the entire game. With MSU down 13-10 with 9:20 left in the fourth quarter and facing 3rd and 6 from the Broncos’ 25, Bell picked up a blindside blitzer, allowing Maxwell to find tight end Dion Sims for an 18-yard gain. Bell scored on a 5-yard TD run two plays later to put Sparty ahead for good, 17-13.
With former Bronco Kellen Moore, the FBS’ winningest quarterback watching from the sidelines as a spectator, there wasn’t much his replacement, Joe Southwick could do. While the Spartans didn’t manage to once sack Southwick, they did pick him off once and force him to complete barely more than half of his passes. With the way the Spartans’ D played all game, Southwick was at a serious disadvantage. BSU rushed the ball 24 times for only 37 yards and finished with a mere 206 yards of total offense.
I fully expected Sparty to have some problems on offense, especially early. In the beginning of the game, their offense looked discombobulated. Between a stalled attack and untimely penalties-like a late hit penalty on the punter-it looked as if the Broncos would come into Spartan Stadium and steal a win away. Luckily for MSU, Le’Veon Bell got better as the game progressed and even carried the ball 13 times in the fourth quarter.
Michigan State (1-0, 0-0 Away) at Central Michigan (1-0, 0-0 Home), 2:30 PM CT
Now 11th-ranked Michigan State will make the trip from East Lansing to Mt. Pleasant, MI to face the Central Michigan Chippewas, who they beat 45-7 last year. Former MSU quarterback Dan Enos has been the CMU football head coach since 2010, and would obviously like to lead the home team to a repeat of 2009, when the Dan Lefevour-led Chippewas went to East Lansing and upset MSU, 29-27. CMU is coming off a season-opening road win over Southeast Missouri State, 38-27. Junior RB Zurlon Tipton rushed for 180 yards and 3 scores, but Central had to score the final 14 points of the game to secure the win.
Like I assumed Sparty would come out a bit flat in the opener, I also figured they’d come out and basically steamroll Central Michigan in the next tilt. Hopefully, the offensive line does a better job of creating holes for Bell and giving Maxwell enough time to go through progression and find open targets downfield. Defensive end William Gholston was a problem at times last Friday and he needs to be a force today, along with linebacker Max Bullough. Not being penalized 10 times for 90 yards would also prove beneficial to Sparty’s cause, too. Central Michigan isn’t on my radar, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that good teams generally don’t struggle with Southeast Missouri State, at home or not. MSU should walk in this one, 42-14.