3 Keys For Spartans Against Terps

3 Keys For Spartans Against Terps

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3 Keys For Spartans Against Terps

Michigan State has a chance to take its season to another level with a win this Saturday against Maryland. What are three key dynamics to watch for as the Spartans fight to get to 6-3, 4-2 with more opportunities ahead?

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It may not seem like it – but Michigan State’s game this Saturday against the 5-3, 3-2 Maryland Terrapins is a truly massive game for these Spartans.

It’s true – Maryland is a new member of the Big Ten, there isn’t any sort of real “history” between the programs, and the Terps don’t get Spartan fans riled up like other traditional Big Ten foes.

But this game has, all of a sudden, become a game that can open up the door to the possibility of yet another double-digit victory season for the Spartans – and maybe more than just that.

Maryland has pieced together a somewhat under-the-radar 5-3 season that’s probably been highlighted by two things:

  • The Terps second straight victory over Texas.

And…

  • The Terps’ ability to fight through major controversy following the tragedy stemming from Jordan McNair’s death during summer workouts and the subsequent decision by the university to place head coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave.

With everything that the university and football program have had to deal with, it’s very impressive to recognize the way Maryland has put themselves into a position to get to seven or even eight victories as the calendar flips to November.

Interim head coach Matt Canada sure has made a case for full-time head coaching status by keeping everything together.

Still, Michigan State should go into this game with the mindset that this is a game that can be and should be won.

A victory would go a long way towards showing that the team and the program might have lost that brawl with its rival but the season can and may, in fact, feature a strong finish with all sorts of intrigue if a few things bounce the Spartans’ way.

Before we get to breaking down potentially kooky scenarios that may have a chance to play out, let’s first identify three key areas of focus as we prepare for a another weekend of excitement provided by these Spartans…

CAN THE DEFENSE CONTINUE TO DOMINATE?

I don’t think this really got the right amount of attention this past Saturday and in the days following the victory – probably because it occurred against “Purdue” –

Michigan State shut down an offense last Saturday that was averaging 41 points per game during a four-game winning streak and 35 points over the whole season and limited that offense to one touchdown and 13 points.

David Blough, Rondale Moore, DJ Knox, and a bunch of other Boilermakers had been torching teams for weeks.

Michigan State completely shut those Boilers down.

Purdue gained 62 yards on the ground and while Blough put up a total of 277 yards through the air, the Spartan defense didn’t give up any big plays and kept Purdue frustrated and pressured all afternoon.

We’re eight games into the season and Michigan State is back in the #1 spot in the nation when it comes to stopping the run.

That’s no longer a cute, trendy sort of a thing – Michigan State’s rushing defense is legitimately the #1 rushing defense in college football.

It’s not a “good” rushing defense.

It’s not a “Top 10” defense against the run.

It’s #1.

Period.

If anyone wants to dispute that, feel free to do so while twiddling your thumbs.

And with the way the secondary and overall back end of the defense has improved over the season, it’s reasonable to think that Josiah Scott’s return is only going to help this defense continue to lead the way for the team.

Can Michigan State shut down the Terps the way it shut down Purdue, Penn State, and, yes, for much of the game, Michigan?

For anyone that wants to dispute that last point – feel free to dispute it but know that it’s accurate and factual.

For the purposes of being as clear as possible, consider the following:

Michigan finished the game having gained 183 yards rushing and 212 yards passing.

Good numbers.

On Michigan’s game clinching, 13-play, 84-yard drive that started with 1:59 left in the third quarter, the Wolverines gained 24 yards through the air and 60 yards on the ground.

Make no mistake – we’re not saying that drive “skews” anything at all since it was a sensational, old-fashioned, back-breaking drive executed flawlessly.

But, up until that point, Michigan State’s defense had played very well in holding Michigan to 14 points and keeping the Spartans one play from a tie-score thanks to, largely, shutting down Michigan’s offense.

If anyone wants to dispute that, feel free to do so while twiddling your big toes.

The point?

Michigan State’s defense is the real deal any way you want to slice it.

Can this defense shut down Maryland this Saturday?

If the Spartans do not shut down Maryland’s 11th ranked offense in the Big Ten, it would be a major disappointment.

SOME OF US LIKED ROCKY II EVEN MORE THAN THE ORIGINAL

To be perfectly clear, SpartansWire is in no way advocating for the “removal” of Brian Lewerke from the top spot as Michigan State’s leader and quarterback.

Lewerke is Michigan State’s #1 quarterback.

But it makes all the sense in the world to start Rocky Lombardi this Saturday against Maryland.

For one thing, Lewerke’s health should be the main concern and getting him back to 100% is the long term need for the program.

Giving Lewerke the chance to rest his shoulder for another full week would be the smart move – especially when the Spartans have Rocky Lombardi coming off of a truly magical debut.

Resting Lewerke doesn’t just get him to full strength – it gives Lombadri another chance to gain even more confidence and notch another “biggie” on his belt.

A repeat performance of what Lombardi was able to do against Purdue isn’t even necessary.

For this game – against a team that doesn’t have the offensive firepower that Purdue has – Michigan State can, to some extent, ride its defense as far as it will take it.

Following that game against Purdue, we’d like to think that Lombardi has the confidence, the comfort, and the motivation to keep the train moving in the right direction.

What Lombardi can’t do is try to play outside of his zone.

No need to attempt to be Kirk Cousins – just be Rocky Lombardi.

When there is an opening and receivers are covered up a bit, don’t hesitate to tuck it and run with it rather than forcing a bad throw.

Don’t take a bad sack – get the hell out of the pocket and chuck it out of bounds.

When one of your buddies is open, simply throw the ball to him so he can catch it.

If Rocky Lombardi plays good, solid football, he should be able to celebrate having led Michigan State to two massive wins.

LET COGHLIN BE COGHLIN

Get this kid anywhere within sixty or so yards near the goal posts and he’s gonna drill field goals.

It’s as simple as that.

Get a few first downs.

Move the ball a little bit.

Have a play that goes for fifteen yards here and there.

Get the ball into Matt Dotson’s hands so he can steamroll over some poor defender who has no chance of bringing the guy down.

Toss the ball to Connor Heyward or LJ Scott out in the flat and have either of them gain eight yards.

Dial up an 8th-grade style “quarterback keeper” around the right end for seven yards.

Do these simple things and, all of a sudden, the ball is past midfield and the redheaded assassin is ready to rock.

Score 27 points on 9 field goals.

Just get the kid within “range” and let him fly the team plane home as it carries the 6-3 Spartans back to East Lansing in time to get everyone ready for Ohio State and all of the kooky scenarios that might just be realistic by 11:30p et this Saturday night…..

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