Getting The Carries Means Owning The Clock - Which Means Winning Games

Getting The Carries Means Owning The Clock - Which Means Winning Games

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Getting The Carries Means Owning The Clock - Which Means Winning Games

Mark Dantonio has talked about the Spartans’ need to have 40 carries in a game. He says that if that magic number is reached, the chances of victory become very high. The Spartans have done enough over the second half of this season to allow MSU to reach Dantonio’s magic number.

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Underrated, under appreciated, under reported fact regarding the current state of affairs for the surging Michigan State Spartans:

In their last four games, the Spartans are 3-1 with the lone loss coming against the #4 team in the nation.

The three victories have come on the road against a team that was #8 at the time, against a team that was on a four game winning streak and averaging 42 points per game during that streak, and on the road against a team that had the potential to find an emotional spark to create an opportunity for an upset over Michigan State.

It’s fair to say that regarding the three wins over these last four games, many people – most people? – thought the chances were very high that Michigan State would lose each of the games.

During this period, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio has been questioned – as all coaches are – about his various philosophies, his penchant for sticking with his basic football principles, and his supposed sin of committing “coaching malpractice” due to an “inability to adjust.”

Dantonio has been steadfast in his calm and confident (some would say “stubborn”) loyalty to the need to run the football.

He’s said that his team needs to reach 40 carries in a football game and that if that number can be reached – or, at least, a number close to that can be reached – his team’s chances for victory become very high.

Too many of The Experts fall into the trap of thinking that “getting 40 carries” means Dantonio thinks his team needs to gain 350 yards on the ground in order to win.

The Experts, as sometimes is the case, haven’t been following the logic – which, more often than not with Dantonio, is pretty basic and simple.

Getting 40 carries over the course of four quarters allows a team to maintain possession of the football.

When a team possesses the football for an amount of time that is substantially greater than the opponent, that means that the opponent has a substantially less amount of time to score points.

The theory seems to make sense.

And when the team that possesses the football for a substantially greater amount of time than its opponent happens to have a defense that suffocates and stifles the opponent’s offense, the theory becomes even more logical.

Let’s look at these specifics over the last three victories for Michigan State.

Michigan State at #8 Penn State.

  • Michigan State carried the ball 36 times.
  • The Spartans gained 123 yards.
  • The Spartans won the time of possession battle with an edge of 34:12 to 25:48.
  • Michigan State won the game, 21-17.

Purdue at Michigan State.

  • Michigan State had 40 rushes over the full game.
  • The Spartans gained 108 yards.
  • Michigan State won the time of possession battle with an edge of 38:13 vs 21:47.
  • Michigan State won the game, 23-13.

Michigan State at Maryland.

  • The Spartans had 46 carries.
  • They gained 269 yards.
  • Michigan State won the time of possession battle 36:56 to 23:04.
  • Michigan State won the game 24-3.

Over those three victories, these averages become important:

122 total carries comes to an average of 40.66666667 carries per game.

500 yards rushing comes to an average of 166.66666667 yards per game.

And over the entire season, Michigan State is 11th in the nation in time of possession with an average possession time per game of 33:25.

Spartan fans are well aware of how, particularly through the first half of the season, the offensive line has been a patchwork unit due to the constant flow of injuries that have kept the unit from being able to find a cohesive rhythm and chemistry.

Last week against Maryland, the lineup featured Cole Chewins and left tackle, Tyler Higby at left guard, Blake Bueter at center, Luke Campbell right guard and Jordan Reid at right tackle – and that was the first time all season that Michigan State had the same starters on the offensive line in back-to-back weeks.

The offensive line has helped Michigan State fight, scratch, and claw its way to a 6-3, 4-2 record and the fact that the team is 11th in the nation in time of possession suggests that the coaching philosophy regarding the need to get 40 carries in a game is a worthwhile one.

If someone looks at a stat sheet and just sees that a team had rushed for 123 yards at #8 Penn State, that person would probably assume that the team with the 123 yards lost.

If someone looks at a stat sheet and just sees that a team rushed for 108 yards at home against Purdue’s high-octane offense, that person would probably assume that Purdue rolled over the Spartans.

It’s the ability to hammer away all game long – just enough to sustain drives, just enough to give the defense the breathers necessary to allow that defense to be attacking downhill when the 4th quarter starts, just enough to keep the opposing quarterback standing there on the sideline wondering when he’s going to get another crack, just enough to allow for the opportunity to break a long one here and there.

It’s about so much more than gaining huge yards.

If folks don’t think it’s “exciting enough,” those folks should think about finding another team that doesn’t win as many games as Michigan State does to follow and see “exciting” football that placates their need to watch “exciting” stuff.

The overwhelming majority of Spartan fans are just fine with the approach Michigan State’s head coach – who will soon become the university’s winningest football coach in its history – takes.

The reason for the “acceptance” of the approach is because the overwhelming majority of Spartan fans think that “winning” is “exciting.”

And if Michigan State can execute the strategy that’s worked while on this 3-1 stretch over its last 4 games (let alone for the last 12 years), the Spartans will handle Ohio State just fine and will be 7-3, 5-2 by 4p on Saturday.

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