Own Time Of Possession Against Northwestern

Own Time Of Possession Against Northwestern

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Own Time Of Possession Against Northwestern

The Spartans dive right back into Big Ten play with a huge matchup with Northwestern this Saturday at Spartan Stadium. The Cats won last year’s triple overtime thriller, 39-31. There is a “simple” roadmap to victory for Michigan State this Saturday.

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Despite the fact that I write extremely important things on this sophisticated digital platform, I’m just a regular civilian that puts his pants on one leg at a time.

I’m just like you (with the obvious exception being that I spend all of my waking hours in my mother’s basement where I write all of these really important articles surrounded by empty bags of Cheetos and crushed cans of Mountain Dew that are strewn all over the shag carpeting that my mom put in back in 1988 to drown out the noise made when my rock band jammed in this basement).

Since I’m a regular civilian, I read all of the articles and blogs and sky-writings that you read in my never-ending efforts to figure out how Michigan State can win as many games as possible.

This morning I was reading an article written by one of the Detroit guys and he managed to sprinkle in something (almost as an afterthought) simple, something totally on point, and something important within all of the other things he was saying are wrong about the Spartans.

Here’s what the chap wrote –

Yet the Spartans have continued to own time of possession, showing that they are not as far off as it may look. It is about finishing drives, avoiding turnovers and missed assignments.

That’s not a sentence that should start with the word “yet.”

And the second part of that first sentence – they are not as far off as it may look – is anything but an afterthought.

The Detroit newspaper guy is right – the Spartans really aren’t as far off as it might appear.

Michigan State fans might not know this since “time of possession” isn’t something that makes people jump out of their basement sofas – but – the Spartans are 11th in the nation in time of possession right now.

Michigan State has owned the ball for an average of 34:48 through four games.

Let’s look at the final part of the Detroit newspaper guy’s sentence that started with the word “yet” – It is about finishing drives, avoiding turnovers and missed assignments.

The Detroit newspaper guy is spot on.

Against Northwestern, if Michigan State can hold on to the ball, keep Clayton Thorson and his offense off the field for as long as possible, and if the Spartans can capitalize on opportunities, limit the miscues and missed assignments offensively, Michigan State can – SHOULD – win this game.

In this past Saturday’s loss to UMAA, Northwestern exploded out to a 17-0 lead.

However, over the course of the four quarters, UMAA was able to do two key things:

Limit Clayton Thorson and the Wildcats to a total of 174 yards passing while thwarting Northwestern crossing and underneath routes.

And…

UMAA held the ball for 34:41.

That time of possession edge for UMAA wore down the Northwestern defense as UMAA chipped away at the 17-0 deficit.

By the time UMAA was driving for what wound up being the game-winning touchdown late in the 4th quarter, that time of possession edge had delivered the body blows that led to the victory for UMAA.

Michigan State has had a significant time of possession advantage over opponents for years and it’s been as important as anything else during the Dantonio Era run of success.

If Michigan State can have a significant edge in time of possession this Saturday, it’ll come down to the things that Michigan State can control –

  • Playing cleanly, locking in on assignments, taking full advantage of red zone opportunities without unforced errors, and letting Michigan State’s defense be at full strength all throughout, particularly late in the game.
  • Control the ball, tire out Northwestern’s defense, overpower the Wildcats as the game wears on.

This can – and should – be a recipe for success this Saturday as the Spartans have a 4-1 overall record and a 2-0 Big Ten mark in their sights.

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