Note: It was a busy Saturday at the Spartans Weblog residence, so I only saw about three-quarters of the game. These musings are, therefore, even more random than my normal football musings. Nevertheless:
- Another monumental performance by Javon Ringer: 198 yards on 44 carries. The offensive/special teams touch counts are now up to 203 for Ringer vs. 108 for the rest of the MSU roster.
- On that note, might it be time to take Ringer off kick-off duty? He’s now returned 11 kicks for 224 yards (20.4/return), with a long return of 33 yards. Solid numbers, but it doesn’t appearing he’s creating an enormous advantage in the return game. Might be better to spare him a few extra hits per game.
- Good game for Hoyer. He wasn’t perfect, but college QBs generally aren’t. 14-26 for 261 yards. And there were some dropped passes and a pass interference call in there that would have resulted in more yardage. (Of course, there were also one or two picks that should have been made by the IU defense.)
- Player of game: Brett Swenson. His three field goals from 45+ yards out gave MSU enough breathing room to keep them (barely) in control of the game throughout.
- First down stats: Ignoring the two drives to end halfs, MSU ran 33 first down plays. They ran the ball on all but six of those plays: 27 carries for 129 yards (4.8 yards/carry). (Those numbers are driven up by a 29-yard rushing attempt by B.J. Cunningham on MSU’s third drive; was that an end-around or a lateral?) All in all, the run-heavy strategy worked. MSU gained at least 4 yards on 17 of the 27 first-down rushing attempts.
- There was a period in the second quarter (8 first-down rushing attempts for 10 yards in that quarter), though, when the IU defense knew the run was coming and stopped it. Hoyer took advantage of that on MSU’s first drive of the second half by completing a 33-yard pass to Cunningham to set up Ringer’s goal-line touchdown run. (This was obviously in response to the advice I posted over at Pete’s site.) For the day, Hoyer was 4-6 for 64 yards on first down pass attempts.
- The secondary looked very vulnerable again, giving up a long passing TD (and avoiding another long one on the safety call*) and getting called for pass interference three times (and I thought they could have been called for a couple more). The pass defense is still the number one issue going forward, IMO.
*I will say that safety call was poetic justice, though. On the first down play of that drive, how is the Indiana running back falling forward onto the ground with the ball clearly still in the endzone not indisputable evidence of a safety?
Choose your own conclusion:
- Optimistic version: While the 42-29 scoreline brings to mind MSU’s conference tendencies from last year–either winning or losing games with lots of scoring on both sides–I actually thought this game ended up playing out the way Dantonio wants Spartan victories to play out. MSU controlled the fourth quarter. They ran the ball with authority in the final quarter, even when IU knew the run was coming, and the secondary made the stops they needed to to put the game way.
- Pessimistic version: If Kellen Lewis doesn’t get hurt, do we still win this one? We gave up 284 passing yards to a team that (1) was averaging 178 yards through the air against much weaker competition coming into the game and (2) was forced to play its back-up quarterback for half the game. Does the defense have enough to give our Spartans a shot at playing competitively against the upper echelon teams in the conference (an echelon we thought included Wisconsin, and not Michigan, but maybe not)?