Maybe I shouldn’t have been worried about Youngstown State somehow coming into East Lansing, MI, and “upsetting” the Michigan State Spartans. Perhaps I should have had more faith that the Spartans’ offense would get it together sooner than much, much, much later. It would have been safe to say that even though Sparty’s defense carried it through the first two games of the season, that the offense would eventually contribute. I know that MSU (3-0, 0-0 Big 10) isn’t as good as it showed in a 55-17 win over Youngstown State (2-1, 0-0 MVC), but it was good to see them at least appear to be a powerhouse for one Saturday afternoon.
Sophomore QB Connor Cook (15-22, 202 YDS, 4 TD) threw four touchdown passes in the first half alone and running backs Nick Hill (9 CAR, 83 YDS, TD) and Jeremy Langford (15 CAR, 68 YDS, 2 TD) combined for 24 carries, 151 yards and 3 scores as MSU rolled up 547 yards of total offense on the overmatched Penguins. After the offense scored only two touchdowns in its first two games, head coach Mark Dantonio looked to Cook to provide a spark, and he was able to do so. The Spartans’ first offensive drive was only 5 yards and 24 yards, but ended up with Langford scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run. After that, MSU’s offense was nearly unstoppable, scoring touchdowns on six of its next eight drives and building a 49-10 lead.
As usual, Sparty’s defense was stout, allowing only 172 yards of total offense with only 51 of those coming on the ground. Senior YSU QB Kurt Hess (11-27, 121 YDS, TD) was out of sorts the entire game and freshman RB Martin Ruiz (93 total yards, 2 TD) was the only remote offensive spark the Penguins had. A 34-yard TD pass to Ruiz with 1:36 left in the third quarter made the score a slightly less laughable 49-17 and was also the Pens’ best drive of the entire game. The Sparty D forced YSU’s O into three-and-out situations six times and forced and recovered two Penguins’ fumbles.
Sure, Youngstown State isn’t a very good football team. I choose to focus on the fact that Cook looked fairly sharp while continuously moving the ball down the field and that the receivers got to put in a good amount of work. Ten different Spartans caught a pass yesterday, with sophomore WR Macgarrett Kings, Jr. leading the way with 4 catches for 61 yards and a score. There were no “Sparty NO!!!” moments on either side of the ball or on special teams and also, MSU was whistled for only two penalties. The defense more than held its ground and are becoming more and more aggressive with each passing week.
Next up for Sparty is Notre Dame, who scraped by lowly Purdue yesterday, 31-24. The Fighting Irish rank 56th in the nation in total defense and 50th in offense. The Spartans rank 1st in total defense and even after yesterday’s offensive explosion, still find themselves 83rd in the country in total offense. This Notre Dame team is simply not as good as last year’s team that played in the national title game and hopefully, these Spartans are beginning to turn it around, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Even though ND’s offense is much better than any MSU has faced so far, ND certainly won’t score or even move the ball with ease. Notre Dame’s defense isn’t quite as strong as it was last year, but the front seven are still a huge problem for opposing offenses and Sparty’s offense is, well, still a bit suspect. The game will be played in South Bend, IN, but that shouldn’t stop MSU from escaping with a win. Go Green. Go White.
- Holy crap, I love watching Johnny Manziel play. Yesterday’s Alabama-Texas A&M game was simply, great. It didn’t fit the narrative of SEC defensive excellence in the least, but that’s what happens when a wide-open, Big 12-style offense like TAMU’s barges its way into the SEC without refrain. After the Aggies jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, the Crimson Tide responded by scoring the game’s next 35 points. While I’m sure more than a few thought the game to be over, Manziel and the Aggies had other plans and turned the fray into an actual ballgame. Manziel continued to make play after play while his teammate, sophomore WR Mike Evans, had the kind of game that doesn’t even often occur in video games, finishing with 7 catches for a whopping 279 yards and a score. A 95-yard TD pass from Manziel to Evans brought the Aggies to within 7, 42-35, but that would be as close as they would get. Alabama QB AJ McCarron, who also had one hell of a game, tossed a short scoring pass later in the fourth quarter that would ice the game for the Tide. Manziel told reporters after the game that TAMU could still find themselves in the national title game, and that’s certainly true. After all, TAMU beat Alabama last year and Alabama eventually won the title. But, for right now, I’m still kind of in awe of a somewhat diminutive guy who could amass over 500 yards of total offense in one game against what is supposed to be an NFL-level defense.
- The Big 10 flopped. Eh. Yesterday was a big day for Big 10 football, and that’s because of the matchups: Nebraska-UCLA, Ohio St.-Cal, Purdue-Notre Dame, Illinois-Washington, Wisconsin-Arizona St. That’s four games against Pac-12 opponents and one against Notre Dame, which is a big game for everyone regardless of where ND is at on the college football food chain. Nebraska was outscored 31-0 in the second half and lost by 20. OSU was in control for the entire ballgame, but still gave up 503 yards of total offense and 34 points to the Golden Bears. Purdue had a chance to win, but squandered it and probably several others away. Illinois gave up 615 yards of total offense to the Huskies and probably would have won had their QB, Nathan Scheelhaase, been able to complete at least 40% of his passes. Wisconsin lost on a very freaky final play, but probably deserved to lose, anyway. That’s five flops, in my book, and I won’t even mention Michigan beating Akron on the final play of the game, Penn St. losing to UCF, and Iowa inching by Iowa St. When does the college basketball season start?
- Do away with the stupid rules, college football. I am all for promoting player safety in sports, and that goes double for a sport like football. So, when certain rules are introduced that are meant to do more to protect players, I almost always have no qualms with them. But, like everything else in life, stupidity can sometimes prevail. It was bad enough when I learned at the beginning of the season that if a player’s helmet comes off, he must sit the next play out. Now, I’ve played football before and had my helmet come off during a play. It takes literally seconds to put a helmet back on and fasten the chin strap. Literally. Seconds. Yesterday, during the Bama-TAMU game, a TAMU defender’s helmet came off during a play, but he continued to pursue the ballcarrier. He was flagged and his team was penalized 15 yards. However, if he were an offensive player, the whistle would have been blown and play would have stopped immediately. Why this courtesy can’t be extended to a defensive player, I don’t know. It’s almost like entrapment, to an extent. What is a football player supposed to do when, in the middle of a play, he loses his helmet? Freeze in his tracks? All I know is there’s a difference between endorsing player safety and coming up with rules that simply make no sense. Alas, this is the NCAA we’re talking about. The NCAA knows very well about both stupidity and hypocrisy.