Spartans Are Taking It One Step At A Time...

Spartans Are Taking It One Step At A Time...

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Spartans Are Taking It One Step At A Time...

Michigan State’s 35-21 win over Indiana Saturday night in Bloomington wasn’t a magical win for the Spartans. But it was the necessary next step for a team that is going to take this season one step at a time.

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Let’s get the things that The Extremists and The Alarmists found “lamentable” and “unacceptable” out of the way before we get to other things that also happen to matter in looking at Michigan State’s 35-21 victory over Indiana Saturday night in Bloomington.

  • Michigan State’s rushing attack continues to struggle.  The Spartans’ 131 yards on the ground isn’t an output that’s going to cut it, particularly against the big boys in the Big Ten East.
  • Michigan State’s offensive line is still searching for the right mix of personnel, the right level of intensity, the ability to consistently convert in short yardage situations, and the ability to deal with the reality of injuries that are impacting everything that the offensive line is struggling to achieve.
  • Michigan State’s secondary and overall pass defense surrendered 272 yards that mostly came by way of Indiana’s ability to find room underneath in pockets and the Spartans are still having lapses in coverage assignments from time to time.
  • Michigan State committed 8 penalties for 72 yards.
  • Brian Lewerke made several poor choices that led to turnovers on plays that he’d like to have back.

For a team that entered this quickly-evolving-season with very serious goals of competing for the Big Ten Championship, Spartan fans would have good reason to wish that this list of “issues” wouldn’t be as long and as substantial.

Maybe, though, we can take a moment to look closely at some of the things that actually went well during Michigan State’s victory over the formerly unbeaten Hoosiers that got the Spartans to 2-1 on the season and 1-0 in the Big Ten.

PASS RUSH EMERGES

  • Against an Indiana offensive line that had given up one sack in the Hoosiers’ first three games collectively, Michigan State’s pass rush appeared to show strength, power, quickness, and determination in finishing the night with four sacks.

#1 RUSHING DEFENSE IN THE NATION

  • Against an Indiana team that averaged 235 yards rushing over the Hoosiers’ 3-0 start, Michigan State shut the Hoosiers down by allowing 29 yards on the ground.  Michigan State has the nation’s #1 defense against the run through four weeks of college football having been played.

DAVIS & WHITE CONTINUE TO SHINE

  • Felton Davis continues to show why he’ll be playing in the NFL next season.  Every one of his five catches and every one of his 79 yards for the night were important and impressive.

  • Cody White continues to show why he’s one of the more underrated stars in the Big Ten and, perhaps, all of college football.  He added to Davis’s 79 yards with 77 receiving yards of his own on four receptions.

NEWSFLASH – JALEN NAILOR’S 75-YARD RUN COUNTS

  • I’ve read in every report available that Jalen Nailor’s 75-yard touchdown run to seal the game “skewed” the Spartans’ 131 yard rushing total for the night.  That’s wrong.  Unless, of course, we can say that Matt Coghlin’s touchdown run “skewed” the Spartans’ final total output.
  • Jalen Nailor’s run counts every bit as much as every other run over the course of the game and to suggest that it “skews” anything is to ignore the sensational blocks made by Tyler Higby and Luke Campbell that sprung Nailor free.
  • Nailor’s 75-yard touchdown run was a play that gained 75 actual yards on the ground thanks to a perfectly executed play by everyone involved.  The play didn’t skew anything at all.

PROPS TO TYLER HIGBY

  • Tyler Higby has been the victim of a lot of criticism for “failing” to get the job done at center through the first two games. Every expert that’s fired shots at Higby should be firing off props to Higby for the way he fought all night and made a terrific block on Nailor’s run because it was a big time play by Higby.

“ROCKS” WAS MUCH MORE THAN JUST CUTE, TRICKY STUFF

  • Mark Dantonio’s penchant for brilliant trick plays aren’t done to entertain people in the way a juggler entertains people at the circus – he runs the plays to win football games.  The way he pulled the trigger on the fake field goal in the third quarter and the way the Spartans executed the play doesn’t “skew” anything – it shows a team that can win in different ways which is exactly what the team did.
  • Over the last couple of years, there’s been a quiet narrative that Dantonio’s trick play “stuff” has grown a little stale.
  • “Rocks” – the latest jewel to be plucked out of Dantonio’s brilliant bag of tricks – was perfectly timed, perfectly executed, and played a major role in Michigan State’s victory.
  • There wasn’t anything “ancillary” about the play.

TWO MINUTE PERFECTION

  • Michigan State’s drive at the end of the first half was a primer on executing a two-minute drill.
  • Brian Lewerke engineered a 7-play drive that covered 74 yards in 1:04 to extend the lead to 21-7.

  • This drive went a long way towards exerting some authority over IU in what was a tight game at the time.
  • On the drive, Lewerke was 5 of 7 for all of the 74 yards gained.
  • After missing Matt Dotson in the endzone on first down from the IU 10-yard line with 31 seconds to play in the half, Lewerke executed a sensational play in finding Dotson for the touchdown with 19 seconds left.

  • For the folks who want to point to Lewerke’s miscues, they should also point to this drive as an example of what he isn’t just capable of but what he, in fact, does for this team.

ONE STEP AT A TIME….

Michigan State didn’t light the college football world on fire with this victory.

Mark Dantonio wasn’t about to refer to this as a “program win” as he appropriately does from time to time.

But for a team that entered this game with a fair amount of wobble after a 1-1 start that had a lot of people chirping, a two-touchdown win on the road over a team that didn’t just luck itself into a 3-0 record is a meaningful step forward.

Peyton Ramsey – the Hoosier quarterback who found a way to end the night with 272 yards passing – is going to cause a lot of problems for Big Ten teams this season and for the next couple of seasons.

Michigan State didn’t let him do enough for IU – and when Ramsey wasn’t being sacked by a surging defensive front, he was being harassed by that surging defensive front.

It’s worth a saying it again – the Hoosiers had allowed one sack in three games prior to last night.

The Spartans treated Indiana’s running game as if it was comprised of mosquitos.

This victory won’t get put into a vault and viewed with celebratory nostalgia for years to come.

But in order to get momentum going, in order to establish some positivity, and in order to take the necessary next step, Michigan State had to take care of business against a 3-0 team on the road after a couple of weeks of annoying narratives surrounding the team.

There’s an argument to be made – despite the challenges that this team still needs to address – that the Spartans did more than take care of business.

The victory had a sprinkling of everything that this team can point to and gain confidence from.

As we said following the tough loss to Arizona State, over the course of the Mark Dantonio Era, Michigan State has been at its best when it’s taken a methodical, one-game-at-a-time and even a one-possession-at-a-time approach to things.

The one thing Michigan State needed to do this week was beat Indiana.

While there is, obviously, plenty for the Spartans to work on, they can know that they accomplished the mission for the week.

Next step, prepare to do the same thing while continuing to show progress and improvement in all areas and get to 3-1 with a win against Central Michigan on Saturday in East Lansing.

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