"It's worth noting throughout history / kids come around corners to a multitude of casualties."
- The Hold Steady
In the third quarter, Penn State actually punted. I certainly don't remember the game occurring in such a fashion, I remember Daryll Clark completing passes to his wide receivers on the sidelines and having said receivers walk into the end zone. It's not just that Penn State's offense was playing so well, it's that Michigan State offered them prime field position by way of spotty kick return coverage or two uncharacteristic Kirk Cousins interceptions where he forced the ball down the field. Either way, Michigan State got blown out, and thus ends one of the most painful struggles to bowl eligibility in Michigan State history.
The most shocking aspect of this game was the contrast between the two halves Michigan State played. The adjective for the first half was "conservative". The offense was balanced (almost to a fault, even though the run game was fine), and couldn't sustain a drive. The defense went into its typical "bend but don't break" mentality, and I was stunned to see it actually...well, work. Twice Penn State had to settle for field goal attempts (although one of these FGs was attempted on 3rd and 15), which they both missed. A late touchdown gave Penn State a 7-0 lead, then MSU had its best (read: only) significant drive of the game, an 87-yard drive ending with a gorgeous catch by Charlie Gantt to tie the game back up.
Then came the downfall.
I'm not going to rehash all aspects of the third quarter; I'm not interested in giving any Spartan PTSD. The one moment that sticks out in my mind was Clark dropping back with Penn State up 21-7, fresh off a Cousins' interception. The MSU rush was prolonged in reaching Clark, and when that happened, I cringed, and waited for the inevitable. Yup, completed pass to Zug near the sideline, and Zug did the Lindy Hop* into the end zone.
Alright, enough negativity. Next up is a bowl game, something Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Michigan fans wish they could say. This bowl game will most likely not be in Detroit, also a positive. As for other glints of hope, Keshawn Martin once again had a 70+ yard TD play, Greg Jones had another stellar performance (15 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks), and Cousins knows what he did wrong:
Yeah, I made poor decisions on both of them. I can't do that, it cost the football team and when you get in a little bit of a catch up mode because you're doing three-and-outs and then they get ahead by a couple of touchdowns. Instead of just staying patient and letting the game still come to me, I just tried to do too much to try and get it back so fast that I was trying to make plays where there weren't plays there to be made.
The biggest positive - any shred of credibility this defensive scheme had was obliterated last afternoon by 6 PM. That means changes will have to be made by Narduzzi, Dantonio, etc., because if they want to remain competitive; bend but don't break won't cut it anymore. One of the reasons MSU was so successful last year was that in the games they won, they won the turnover battle in almost every game. This year, State didn't force as near as many turnovers (I don't have the numbers to prove this, but this sure seems to be the case). At any rate, something needs to change, and any change in scheme to accommodate a better pass defense is welcomed
One more month until the last MSU football game of the season. In the meantime, I hear Michigan State plays this game with an orange sphere and two peach baskets. Apparently they're quite good in their matches, and if you need a break from fishing the remote control out from your drywall, that'd be your best bet.
At any rate, play us out Craig.
*Note - may not have happened. Zug definitely had the time for it though.