FanPost

MSUFR: Offense vs. Notre Dame

[Bump.  --LVS.]

Welcome to the MSUFR for the MSU Offense vs. Notre Dame.  I think DrDetroit and I have worked out a consistent format.  I also think he got the short end of the draw; MSU's offense is actually very good and not at all frustrating to review, unlike the defense.  Technical difficulties right now are preventing me from putting up video; I hope to have this fixed this week.  Comments and suggestions for improvement appreciated.

TimeQuarterDown/DistanceLOSOffensive FormationDefensive FormationPlay Result
15:00 1 Kickoff        
Winston fields the ball at the 11 and gets some good blocks on the return right, including a nice sustained block and seal by Pendy to spring the sideline before Winston is surrounded and brought down. Good field position to start.
14:54 1 1st and 10 MSU 45 Offset I 4-3 over man Caulton Ray rush for 5 yards to the 50 yard line.
MSU in offset I with Lintihicum in the slot left. Linthicum motions across taking the cornerback with him (man coverage) and the other outside linebacker steps up to LOS to blitz. Zone stretch; fullback (Hawken) cuts the blitzing backside linebacker. There is a good push from the O-line to stretch everything out to the right, then Ray cuts it back inside and is hit and knocked down by the safety.
14:15 1 2nd and 5 ND 50 Shotgun H-back 4-3 over cover 1 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to Mark Dell.
Hawken as H-back; he motions across and corners switch (zone coverage). Again the other outside linebacker is stepping up to the LOS to blitz (so ND has 6 men on the LOS). Dell runs a slant in front of the safety who is playing a 7 yard cushion; Cousins' pass hits Dell right in front of the safety. Unfortunately it bounces off Dell's chest as he appears to be anticipating the hit. This one is on Dell for not making the catch as Cousins' throw was totally catchable.
14:11 1 3rd and 5 ND 50 Shotgun Trips 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to B.J. Cunningham.
Shotgun trips left twins right. ND is backing into a two deep zone with two corners about 7 yards off the LOS. The two linebackers setep up to the LOS, both outside the D ends, as though to blitz, leaving the middle of the field open. At the snap the LBs each take a slot receiver. Cousins' pass is a bit too far for Cunningham, who was running the out and had drawn the switch; I think it surprised Cunningham that the ball was there as he only got one hand up on it and could have caught it with moderate effort. Had Cousins pumped and waited he had Dell coming open in the middle of the field on the in route. I think Cousins looked at his intended receiver and the D-backs read where he was going to throw.
3 plays, 5 yards, punt. 0-0. Even though Cousins' two passes were incomplete, both throws were accurate and reasonably catchable.
12:21 1 Kickoff        
This time it's a return left. Winston fields at the 7 and almost gets the edge, but runs into Charlie Gantt who has allowed his man to get outside him.
12:13 1 1st and 10 MSU 32 Ace big 4-3 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Blair White for 12 yards to the MchSt 44 for a 1ST down.
Two tight end set. ND has one LB up on the LOS on the short side of the field. The wide side safety walks up on the TE and both backers step up to blitz, leaving White with single man coverage on the wide side. The other safety is still head up on the short side TE, so the cornerback on White (Walls) has no help at all. Play action; White runs an out, getting the cornerback turned around (he is facing the inside of the field). Good blocking from the line. Cousins' throw is behind White, and White has to turn around and get the ball, falling down in the process. Had the throw been a little more in front, White could have spun around inside the overcommitting CB and, without any deep help, been gone for a touchdown. ND gambled and got lucky not to be burned for six.
11:47 1 1st and 10 MSU 44 Ace 4-3 over Larry Caper rush for 8 yards to the NDame 48.
Gantt in the H-back. Gantt motions into an offset I and the outside backer steps up to LOS. Another stretch flowing to the right; the MLB reads the play but overcommits. Good hole opened by the line including Cironi absolutely crushing two Irish defenders at the LOS. The MLB adjusts and flows to the hole, but Caper bounces off his hit and is through to the secondary before the one-deep safety brings him down. One thing to note, Caper did not switch the ball between his hands in anticipation of the tackle; he will pay for this later....
11:14 1 2nd and 2 ND 48 I-formation 4-3 over Glenn Winston rush for 3 yards to the NDame 45 for a 1ST down.
ND in the 4-3 over with the other OLB stepping up into the weakside A-gap. This is a power run to the strongside, but the D line and the MLB clog the holes. Still, Winston is able to hit the pile and fall forward for the first down. Nothing pretty, just power football.
10:44 1 1st and 10 ND 45 Shotgun 4-3 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Blair White for 5 yards to the NDame 40.
MSU comes out in a shotgun, then everybody scrambles to an Ace big. The linebackers all step up to the LOS and blitz at the snap. Cousins turns and throws the long handoff to White who is getting a 10 yard cushion. With no blockers in front, the corner and safety make a quick stop for a 5-yard gain. That's all this play is designed to get, a quick hit for 5 yards.
10:05 1 2nd and 5 at ND 40 ND 40 I-formation 4-3 Larry Caper rush for a loss of 1 yard to the NDame 41.
Strongside corner and backer step up and show blitz; corner backs out. White motions from the slot to the H-back and helps Linthicum double the strongside backer. Meanwhile D.J. Young is beaten by the DE who twists inside him. Caper is caught from behind by the DE and by the corner who Hawken has failed to seal.
9:28 1 3rd and 6 ND 41 Shotgun 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Blair White for 7 yards to the NDame 34 for a 1ST down.
Shotgun with a TE. Strongside backer is on the edge at the LOS. Cunningham motions across from the slot taking a DB with him (man coverage). Both backers blitz at the snap and the safeties step up; White runs a stop route. Cousins puts it low and White makes a diving catch. Good blocking to pick up the blitzing backers.
9:06 1 1st and 10 ND 34 I-formation 4-3 Kirk Cousins rush for a loss of 1 yard to the NDame 35.
Corners step up to press. No blitz; everybody is covered, so Cousins takes off and manages to get back to the line of scrimmage.
8:40 1 2nd and 11 ND 35 Ace H-back 4-3 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Mark Dell for 11 yards to the NDame 24 for a 1ST down.
Hawken at H-back (line unbalanced left) motions to I-formation. Strongside safety and weakside linebacker step up and blitz. Ray picks up the safety blitz well and Cousins throws it perfectly to Dell, who is covered well, on the out.
8:07 1 1st and 10 ND 24 Ace H-back 4-3 over Glenn Winston rush for a loss of 1 yard to the NDame 25.
MSU comes out in an Ace H-back to the short side, then quickly motions to the same formation on the wide side. ND has the strongside backer and safety up on the line; both blitz. DJ Young does well sealing and while Gantt gets the strongside backer, opening the hole, but both the middle and weakside backers read and flow well, sealing the hole and stopping Winston for a loss. On the previous play from the same formation the RB was 5 yards deep, on this one the RB is seven yards deep. Hopefully Treadwell is realizing that he is tipping run or pass from this formation.
7:27 1 2nd and 11 ND 25 Shotgun 4-3 over Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to Charlie Gantt.
Both outside backers are blitzing here. Cousins pump fakes and throws it just before he gets hit to Gantt who is on the skinny post; Gantt is covered well, has to lay out for it, and just can't hang on when he hits the ground.
7:20 1 3rd and 11 ND 25 Shotgun 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to B.J. Cunningham.
Strongside backer is blitzing; he wallops Linthicum and heads for Cousins, who has to unload before he gets hit. His pass to Cunningham on the flag route is overthrown but Cunningham is double covered. There really was no first down option route on this play; everything was going for the TD.
7:16 1 4th and 11 ND 25 Field Goal Block Brett Swenson 43 yard field goal GOOD.
No problem for Swenson.
12 plays, 43 yards, field goal. 7-3 ND.
4:59 1 Kickoff        
Winston fields it at the 5 and goes up the center to the 25 where he is brought down. Linthicum and Hawken were both blown off their blocks by the coverage team.
4:52 1 1st and 10 MSU 25 Shotgun H-back 4-2-5 Caulton Ray rush for 18 yards to the MchSt 43 for a 1ST down.
Gantt at the H-back motions to center and back. All the DBs are backing up at the snap and the strong side backer blitzes while the strongside safety steps up. This is supposed to be a veer, and Gantt and Foreman do a nice job containing the backer and the safety. The rest of the line and the wide receivers are downfield getting good blocks and pushing everything to the strong side. Ray sees the opening on the weak side and cuts, springing a nice gain.
4:18 1 1st and 10 MSU 43 I-formation 4-3 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Mark Dell for 13 yards to the NDame 44 for a 1ST down.
ND shows corner and safety blitz; as it is, only the strongside safety blitzes and is picked up by Hawken. Dell runs a 10 yard dig and Cousins delivers.
3:48 1 1st and 10 ND 44 Ace big 4-3 under Larry Caper rush for 5 yards to the NDame 39.
Both outside backers step up and blitz off the edges. Good hole up the middle; Caper just scoots through and is met by the safeties. ND blitzing off the edges is leaving the middle of the field open. The umpire was right there when the late arriving safety went helmet-to-helmet and knocked Caper's helmet off, so the hit must not have been that bad.
3:09 1 2nd and 5 ND 39 Ace big 4-3 over Kirk Cousins pass complete to Dion Sims for 5 yards to the NDame 34 for a 1ST down.
RB is 7 yards off line of scrimmage, so Treadwell must have heard me say he was tipping passes. MSU switches and motions Gantt to the other side to make unbalanced left; over LB drops back to cover White in the slot. Sims releases and runs a dig at the sticks; he makes the catch and gets a very generous spot.
2:40 1 1st and 10 ND 34 Ace big 4-3 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to Dion Sims, broken up by Kyle McCarthy.
ND blitzes both outside backers. Again Sims releases, this time he runs an out then cuts back in. The safety (McCarthy) overcommitted to the ouside and has to grab Sims; no call. Thanks to the hold Sims can't get separation and McCarthy breaks the pass up.
2:34 1 2nd and 10 ND 34 Shotgun H-back 4-2-5 Caulton Ray rush for no gain to the NDame 34.
Both linebackers blitz. Ray has an opening, but the safety is stepping up into it and doesn't miss.
1:58 1 3rd and 10 ND 34 Shotgun 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to Mark Dell.
Again the outside backer blitzes and the other backer steps into cover the slot. Corners are playing 5-7 yards off and both safeties are bailing out at the snap. Cousins just overthrows Dell on the in route; he's pretty well covered, anyway.
1:53 1 4th and 10 ND 34 Field Goal Block Brett Swenson 51 yard field goal MISSED.
Some confusion before the snap; MSU had only 10 men on the field. Swenson pushes it a bit and it bounces off the upright no good. Plenty of distance and I thought it was good until it hit the post.
8 plays 41 yards, missed field goal. 13-3 ND. One of two kicks that Swenson wants back.
10:55 2 4th and 37 ND 31 Punt Return Eric Maust punt for 49 yards, downed at the MchSt 20.
Keyshawn Martin calls for a fair catch. Ross Weaver is blocking and is thrown into Martin by an ND player. Scary moment when it looks like the punt hits Martin and is recovered by Notre Dame for a TD; Replay shows it doesn't touch Martin and so is downed at the MSU 20.
10:42 2 1st and 10 MSU 20 Shotgun with TE 4-2-5 Keith Nichol rush for 5 yards to the MchSt 25, NOTRE DAME penalty 15 yard Personal Foul on Robert Blanton accepted for a 1ST down.
Nichol in at QB now. ND brings the corner and weakside backer on the blitz. The corner is unblocked; Nichol has to turn and run to the short side. He runs for 5 yards and is pushed out of bounds. The ND tackler (Blanton) is disengaging and then grabs Nichols' heel, tripping him well out of bounds. Blanton pops up holding up his hands acting as though he didn't do anything, but the head linesman was right there watching it and threw the flag.
10:30 2 1st and 10 MSU 40 I formation 4-3 over Larry Caper rush for 6 yards to the MchSt 46.
ND blitzes the strong side (over) backer. Cunningham motions in from the strong side and the strong safety rotates down. Cunningham and fakes the end-around and the weakside backer bites on the end-around fake. Hawken and a pulling Foreman crush the D end, popping his helmet off. Caper takes the handoff and picks his way through the interior; he is tripped by the DT that Stipek is crushing and dives forward for a couple extra yards.
9:41 2 2nd and 4 MSU 46 Shotgun twins w/slot 4-2-5 Keith Nichol rush for 9 yards to the NDame 45, NOTRE DAME penalty 15 yard Personal Foul on Harrison Smith accepted for a 1ST down.
Both backers show blitz. Linthicum motions from the slot to an H-back spot; he gets a good block and seals the blitzing outside backer. This is a run all the way, Nichol takes the snap and runs right behind Linthicum's block to the short side while both WRs on that side took off downfield. Nichol makes one DB miss with a cut inside; he is going down from the second DB's tackle and converging tacklers and blockers when the ND player flies in and blindsides Cironi on top of the pile. A good run play plus more free yards. ND takes a time out right after this, I am assuming to get their defense to settle down -- they've given up 30 yards in unnecessary penalties this drive.
9:37 2 1st and 10 ND 30 I formation 4-3 Keshawn Martin pass complete to Blair White for 30 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.
Safety blitz. Martin goes in motion to take the hand off on the end-around (as was faked two plays ago). White sort of trots downfield like he's looking to block. This combined with the end-around freezes the corner and White just blows past. Martin's throw is a bit high but White goes up and gets it, touchdown. Nice trick play.
4 plays, 80 yards, touchdown. 13-10 ND. Nichol's run threat made for a nice change of pace when ND was adjusting to MSU's passing game. Maybe there is some space for an occasional 2-quarterback system.
9:30 2 1st and 10 MSU 38 I-formation 4-3 over Keith Nichol pass complete to Mark Dell for 8 yards to the MchSt 46.
Play action and rollout. Nichol throws on the run to Dell who is on an 8-yard dig. Dell breaks down on his knees to catch it and hold on securely as he takes the hit. Keshawn Martin would do well to learn from that.
8:50 2 2nd and 2 MSU 46 Ace big 4-3 over (short side) Glenn Winston rush for 5 yards to the NDame 49 for a 1ST down.
Corners move up in press and safety runs up to show blitz, then bail as outside linebacker comes up on the wide side. Zone stretch to the short side; Winston sneaks through and gets enough for the first down.
8:20 2 1st and 10 ND 49 Ace big (H-back) 4-3 over Keith Nichol pass incomplete to Charlie Gantt.
Again the weakside linebacker comes up on the edge as corner bails out. Pocket starts collapsing and rather than stepping up into it, Nichol scrambles around and eventually chucks it on the run to Gantt's feet.
8:12 2 2nd and 10 ND 49 Shotgun trips 4-3 over MICHIGAN ST penalty 5 yard False Start on Charlie Gantt accepted.
This was going to be a run play to the short side. It would have worked as all the DBs were rotated to the center or the wide side, but Gantt rose up just a hair anticipating his seal block on the outside linebacker.
8:10 2 2nd and 15 MSU 46 Ace 4-2-5 Keith Nichol pass complete to Caulton Ray for 9 yards, fumbled, forced by Kapron Lewis-Moore, recovered by NDame Toryan Smith at the NDame 45.
MSU comes out in an Ace set then flops the TE and Nichol goes back into a shotgun. Corner blitz from the strong side, Ray releases on the screen and is well downfield with three blockers when he is caught from behind by a DE, who knocks the ball loose; ND recovers.
4 plays, 17 yards, fumble, 13-10 ND.
3:14 2 Kickoff        
Winston fields it at the 4 and comes up the middle looking hesitant; he is brought down at the 19.
3:06 2 1st and 10 MSU 19 Ace big 4-3 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Mark Dell for 20 yards to the MchSt 39 for a 1ST down.
Linthicum motions to an H-back then across to the short side. Short side safety rolls up behing the outside backer. At the snap outside backer blitzes and safety picks up Linthicum. Cousins rolls out, steps up, and throws to Dell who has run a post and is sitting in the seam, covered by two linebackers. He makes a nice grab for a good gain.
2:51 2 1st and 10 MSU 39 Shotgun Confusion NOTRE DAME penalty 5 yard 12 Men on the Field on Team accepted.
MSU goes into no-huddle and catches ND making substitutions. ND has no less than 15 men on the field when MSU snaps the ball. Nice work by Treadwell and Cousins.
2:34 2 1st and 5 MSU 44 Ace big 4-3 Kirk Cousins pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 12 yards to the NDame 44 for a 1ST down.
ND blitzes the OLB on the short side of the field. Cousins throws the WR screen to Cunningham in the slot to the opposite side. It's behind Cunningham but he makes the spin, grabs it, and takes off, nearly outrunning the angling linebacker.
2:12 2 1st and 10 ND 44 Ace 4-2-5 Larry Caper rush for 3 yards to the NDame 41.
ND blitzes the strongside backer and corner. The corner and OLB are in free but pick up Cousins. However, a DT (Ethan Johnson) beat Foreman and made the tackle on Caper. Otherwise Caper had a huge hole made possible by good blocks from Young, Moss, and Stipek, and by the overaggressive blitz.
1:45 2 2nd and 7 ND 41 Shotgun 4-2-5 NOTRE DAME penalty 15 yard Pass Interference on Gary Gray accepted.
ND blitzes both backers; the strongside at the snap and the weakside on the delay. The safeties are stepping up at the snap too. Cousins throws a bit wide of Blair White but he has a cornerback draped all over him and gets the flag. The corner was beat with no deep help on his side so he had to grab hold of White and hang on. MSU is taking advantage of the non-stop blitzes.
1:39 2 1st and 10 ND 26 I-formation 4-3 over MICHIGAN ST penalty 10 yard Holding on Brendon Moss accepted, no play.
ND brings everyone: all three backers and a safety. Cousins throws it away just as he gets blasted; his pass to Dell is almost picked off as the corner jumps the route, but the ND player drops it. Moss gets flagged but it just as easily could have been on Cironi or Hawken.
1:34 2 1st and 20 ND 36 Shotgun 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 11 yards to the NDame 25.
ND is blitzing the wide side backer at the snap and the other backer on the delay. Cunningham runs a 6 yard dig and Cousins finds him. The corner is giving another 6 yards on the cushion. Cunningham turns it upfield and just steps out of bounds.
1:30 2 2nd and 9 ND 25 Shotgun 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 11 yards to the NDame 14 for a 1ST down.
ND shows inside backer blitz, then backs out as strongside backer steps up. Both backers blitz at the snap. Cunningham and Dell run the hi-lo cross, with Cunningham on the under out; he turns it upfield and gets the first down before being forced out of bounds.
1:24 2 1st and 10 ND 14 Ace 4-2-5 Larry Caper rush for 11 yards to the NDame 3, NOTRE DAME penalty 2 yard Face Mask accepted for a 1ST down.
Linthicum motions from slot to H-back. Safety and short-side backer are blitzing. Caper runs past the blitzing safety and D-end, finds a crease behind Young and Foreman and just follows Foreman and is finally ridden down by the safety after a nice gain. Plus the ND D-end reached out and grabbed Caper's face mask as he was being crushed down by Young.
1:05 2 1st and Goal ND 1 I-formation big Goal line Larry Caper rush for 1 yard for a TOUCHDOWN.
Straight ahead run play. Caper finds the hole, spins off the hit of a linebacker flying in, and falls into the end zone. Very nice drive. In addition, the offense was helped by a couple of bad ND penalties, and managed to overcome a holding penalty.
6 plays, 81 yards, TD. 17-16 MSU.
11:49 3 Kickoff        
Winston fields it at the 4 and comes up the right side. He is just about to burst through an opening when A.J. Jimmerson misses a block, allowing Winston to be caught from the side and behind right at the 20.
11:43 3 1st and 10 MSU 20 Trips 4-2-5 Larry Caper rush for 6 yards to the MchSt 26.
MSU starts in an empty backfield with trips to the wide side and a TE to the short side. Caper is in the middle of the trip set. He motions to an ace formation. Both backers blitz at the snap, one straight ahead to the strongside A gap, the other to the weak (wide) side B gap; Nichol hands off to Caper going to the short side, away from the blitzers who have evvectively taken themselves out of the play. Both White and Gantt take the safety, leaving the cornerback unblocked. The corner puts his shoulder down and just bounces off of Caper, but a linebacker has disengaged from the LOS pursues makes the stop after a decent gain; could have been longer had White sought out the corner and locked on him rather than turning inside and hitting the safety that was Gantt's responsibility. Treadwell's call uses the ND blitz patterns against them; he seems to know that the LBs will blitz straight ahead and off the weakside edge.
10:58 3 2nd and 4 MSU 26 Shotgun trips 4-3 MICHIGAN ST penalty 5 yard False Start on John Stipek accepted.
MSU comes out in a shotgun trips, then resets to an ace big. Stipek snaps the ball prematurely and Nichol comes out without it -- illegal snap.
10:47 3 2nd and 9 MSU 21 I-formation 4-3 over Larry Caper rush for no gain to the MchSt 21.
White motions from wide side to near side. Over backer blitzes. Both LBs and the cornerback (who motioned with White) crash when they recognize the run play. Hawken does a nice job of picking up the over backer. Caper doesn't see the hole opening on the strong side and plows straight ahead, getting tripped up by the linebacker who was crushed by the pulling Foreman but still was able to grab Caper's leg.
  3 3rd and 9 MSU 21 Ace 3-3-5 Keith Nichol pass incomplete to Blair White.
ND in a Nickel set with one of the LBs set up to rush as a down lineman on the weakside. Cunningham goes in motion from strong side to weakside and the corner goes with him but only to the end of the line, showing blitz. At the snap the down backer gets up and drops into coverage while the strong side corner and backer blitz. The TE leaves the DE picking up the blitzing linebacker. Ray is faced with two unblocked rushers. He takes the corner and the DE forces Nichol to hurry his throw; he unloads off his back foot, throwing it away in the direction of White. White was double covered on the out route anyway. This is the last we'll see of Nichol for the day.
3 plays, 1 yard, punt. 23-17 ND.
5:34 3 Kickoff        
Winston fields it at the 11 and starts up the right side before heading crossfield behind his wall. He cuts it upfield, this time getting a good block from Jimmerson. Winston breaks one tackle at the 25 and nearly breaks another but is brought down at the 30.
5:27 3 1st and 10 MSU 30 Ace H-back 4-3 over Kirk Cousins rush for 4 yards to the MchSt 34.
H-back (Hawken) is set up on the strong side and motions to the weakside. At the snap the backers blitz and the over backer takes the TE (Sims). Ray does a nice job of cutting the DE who looped around where the TE was. Hawken runs an under route beneath Dell, but Cousins is looking to the other side. White is on the post route but gets a bump-n-run from the CB and the safety comes over to help. Cousins rolls out, fakes the toss to freeze the safety, and runs forward. He doesn't slide, instead lowering his shoulder on the safety, knocking him backwards, and picking up a couple more yards. My respect for Cousins increases. He is unbelievably tough and a real playmaker.
4:46 3 2nd and 6 MSU 34 Ace big 4-3 over Glenn Winston rush for a loss of 1 yard to the MchSt 33.
At the snap, the over backer blitzes and Gantt whiffs on the block, but the backer overruns the point of attack. Gantt comes back and picks up the man he missed. Winston tries to force his way through between Gantt and Cironi who was driven back a yard or two by the DT. The MLB scrapes and finishes.
4:06 3 3rd and 7 MSU 33 Shotgun H-back 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Mark Dell for 12 yards to the MchSt 45 for a 1ST down.
Backers are showing blitz of the edges as corners are bailing out. At the snap, only the strong side backer blitzes, heading outside then cutting back inside, but he is picked up by Ray and D.J. Young. Cousins has time to look right, then come back left and throw to Dell who makes an inside out move and is squatting right at the sideline. Cousins is sandwiched by two ND rushers just after release. Great play by Cousins and Dell, and also by the line that gave Cousins time to find Dell.
3:39 3 1st and 10 MSU 45 Ace big 4-3 over (wide side) Kirk Cousins pass complete to Charlie Gantt for 25 yards to the NDame 30 for a 1ST down.
Over backer blitzes, along with the middle backer who steps up to blitz / pick up Caper out of the backfield. Both tight ends (Gantt and Linthicum) release; Gantt is on the short side and gets a shot from the DE, then takes off. Safety picks up Linthicum, leaving a 1 deep. The short side backer starts crashing at the snap and by the time he realizes Gantt is running right past him, it's too late. Meanwhile, White puts a move on and gets the corner turned to the outside, his back to Gantt and Gantt is almost stride for stride with the corner. Cousins' throw is a little wobbly but Gantt is wide open and is taken down by the deep safety after a nice gain. Nice play to take advantage of Tenuta's LB blitzes.
3:18 3 1st and 10 ND 30 I-formation big 4-3 over, invert Larry Caper rush for 4 yards to the NDame 26.
ND crashes all three backers plus a safety at the snap. This is a straight ahead wad o bodies run; Caper just wedges himself in a little crevice between Pendy (who is taking the backer) and Moss and Sims (who are doubling the D-end). This might have worked better had the safety not crashed at the snap; he is unblocked and able to grab Caper's legs from behind. Still, Caper is able to fall forward for a gain.
2:35 3 2nd and 6 ND 26 I-formation big 4-3 over, invert Glenn Winston rush for 3 yards to the NDame 23.
Again the safety crashes at the snap along with all three backers. Another fold and Winston goes through the crease for three. This is the play that Foreman got hurt on. I can't tell what happens; all of a sudden he's falling over backwards. Foreman is replaced by redshirt freshman Ethan Ruhland.
1:57 3 3rd and 3 ND 23 Ace H-back 4-3 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Brian Linthicum for 16 yards to the NDame 7 for a 1ST down.
Linthicum at the H-back motions from strong to weak side and is picked up by a safety. Both outside backers show blitz. Linthicum runs a quick out underneath Dell who is bumped and then grabbed at the line by the CB on the in. The safety reads the under route but his intercept angle takes him right into Dell. The safety lowers his shoulder into Dell wiping him out, but it's too late and Linthicum is sprung to the outside. The safety just gets enough of Linthicum to knock him out of bounds or this is a TD.
1:29 3 1st and Goal ND 7 I-formation big 4-3 over (wide side) Larry Caper rush for 7 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.
ND shows safety blitz to the short side. White motions from the wide to the short side, taking the corner with him. All three backers plus the safety are crashing and/or flowing at the snap. Short side is cut by Moss who headed for the second level. Gantt seals the wide side backer, getting his helmet to the outside. Hawken leads through and turns the other safety outside, and Caper cuts it up and into the end zone. MSU is taking advantage of ND's blitzes and letting the defenders run themselves out of the play.
1:24 3 Extra point       Brett Swenson extra point BLOCKED.
The ND player (DT Ethan Johnson) gets a good jump at the snap and is able to turn sideways and get between snapper Alex Shackleton and D.J. Young. He gets his hand up to block the kick and it appears that the kick was slightly off to the left and right into Johnson's hand.
8 plays, 70 yards, TD. 26-23 ND. A very good drive led by Cousins. However, the missed extra point will affect strategy for the rest of the game for MSU.
12:04 4 Punt return        
Punt is fair caught at the MSU 14 by Martin.
12:00 4 1st and 10 MSU 14 Offset I big 4-3 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Charlie Gantt for 6 yards to the MchSt 20.
Sims motions from a 2-TE set to an H-back / slot making the line unbalanced to the short side. Gantt, the other TE, releases under and just squats in the seam under the safety. The wide side and middle linebacker blitz; the short side linebacker flows to the RB then bails once he sees it's a PA rollout. Cousins makes a jump throw and hits Gantt accurately.
11:23 4 2nd and 4 MSU 20 I-formation big 4-3 over Larry Caper rush for 1 yard to the MchSt 21.
ND showing safety blitz. Over backer and safety blitz; the safety is picked up by Cunningham and Hawken on the lead block. Hawken's block is not a good one, plus the other two backers are flowing to the hole anyway and the run is stuffed. The presence of the safety disrupted the blocking scheme as Hawken should have been through to the second level and blocking a linebacker.
10:43 4 3rd and 3 MSU 21 Shotgun 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Mark Dell for 57 yards to the NDame 22 for a 1ST down.
ND bailing out at the snap except the short side backer who blitzes and is picked up by Ray. At the snap Sims sprints out drawing the single linebacker and Dell, who has motioned over, cuts underneath Sims and the backer on the slant. Cousins hits him in stride and it's off to the races. Sims gets a good block downfield from Cunningham and breaks the tackle of a safety, springing for an extra 30 yards. Good playcall plus individual effort by Dell.
10:21 4 1st and 10 ND 22 I formation 4-3 over Glenn Winston rush for 5 yards to the NDame 17.
ND blitzes the over backer and the safety off the weakside edge. Winston heads for the nearside edge, then cuts back up and hits the pile, falling forward.
9:38 4 2nd and 5 ND 17 I-formation big 4-3 over (wide side) Kirk Cousins pass complete to Blair White for 17 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.
ND blitzes the over backer and the safety off the shortside edge. The other linebackers and safeties are playing tight, right at the first down marker. PA freezes the backers and safety and, with one safety blitzing, there is no deep help on White who is single covered by a cornerback. White does an inside-out move and heads for the flag. Caper picks up the over backer just enough to let Cousins step up and throw just before he gets popped. His throw is wobbly but located perfectly (high and outside of White, where the corner can't play it), and White goes up and gets it for the TD.
5 plays, 86 yards, touchdown. 30-26 MSU. Another good drive; this is becoming a trend.
5:18 4 Kickoff return        
Winston fields it at the 7 and heads right. He overtakes his own wedge and runs into the back of Linthicum at around the 25; he is knocked down at the 29.
5:11 4 1st and 10 MSU 29 Shotgun 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to B.J. Cunningham, broken up by Darrin Walls.
ND shows corner blitz on the short side; he bails out and the wide side corner blitzes along with the wide side linebacker who loops behind the DE. Cunningham is open on the dig but the D-back does a good job of reading it and just gets there in time to break the pass up.
5:07 4 2nd and 10 MSU 29 I-formation 4-3 under Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to Brian Linthicum.
The under backer and middle linebacker blitz at the snap; the strongside backer fails to pick up Linthicum. Linthicum runs the 15-yard out but Cousins' throw is just a bit high. Linthicum draws contact from the D-back which seems to cause him to mistime his jump; he looks for a flag but none is coming. On review the D-back got there first and jumped first.
5:02 4 3rd and 10 MSU 29 Ace 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to B.J. Cunningham.
Cunningham motions across from the strong side to the weakside and settles in the slot. ND blitzes the strongside corner plus the strongside backer. Cunningham runs the hi-lo with Dell and turns outside; Cousins' throw is to the inside, turning Cunningham around. He manages to get one hand on it and pull it in but it pops out as he hits the ground.
3 plays, 0 yards, punt. 33-30 ND.
3:02 4 Kickoff return        
Martin calls fair catch at the 30. Chris L. Rucker's illegal block in the back was unnecessary (the gunner was already past Martin) and stupid (it was a fair catch).
2:58 4 1st and 10 MSU 20 Shotgun trips 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Brian Linthicum for 15 yards to the MchSt 35 for a 1ST down.
White motions from the trips to the strong side. ND brings the weakside corner and linebacker blitz; it's picked up well by D.J. Young (who is now playing right tackle) and Caper. Linthicum releases and finds the seam in the zone at the first down marker; he turns and picks up five more yards.
2:50 4 1st and 10 MSU 35 Shotgun 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 8 yards to the MchSt 43.
Strongside corner blitz again along with strongside backer. Young moves out to pick up the corner as Gantt releases. Cunningham runs the 8-yard dig in front of the DB and falls out of bounds to stop the clock.
2:43 4 2nd and 2 MSU 43 Shotgun 3-2-6 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Brian Linthicum for 3 yards to the MchSt 46 for a 1ST down.
ND blitzes a corner off the strongside edge. The strongside backer shows blitz but backs out and the weakside backer blitzes. Linthicum is on a quick release out, gets off cleanly, and catches it under the strongside backer for the first down.
2:34 4 1st and 10 MSU 46 Shotgun empty 3-2-6 Kirk Cousins pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 8 yards to the NDame 46.
ND is in a 4-deep with corners bailing out. Both linebackers blitz. Dell is on the inside and runs deep; Cunningham runs an 8 yard dig. He goes up and gets it over the closing cornerback.
2:04 4 2nd and 2 ND 46 Shotgun 3-2-6 Kirk Cousins pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 16 yards to the NDame 30 for a 1ST down.
Weakside backer and strongside corner blitz. Cousins hits Cunningham on the quick slant in front of the defensive back; Cunningham breaks his tackle and cuts upfield; he breaks a second tackle but can't slip the third, gaining ten extra yards in the process.
1:47 4 1st and 10 ND 30 Shotgun 3-2-6 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to Mark Dell.
The weakside corner shows blitz but backs out before the snap and the strongside corner and MLB blitz. Cousins has Linthicum wide open in the middle of the field but he sees Dell coming open on the skinny post in the seam between the corner and safety. Cousins' throw leads Dell just a bit too far. Dell does not get his hands up; he doesn't complain to the refs about being held so I think the ball surprised him.
1:43 4 2nd and 10 ND 30 Shotgun 3-2-6 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Blair White for 4 yards to the NDame 26.
Both backers blitz (twist). White runs a cross over the middle. Cousins throws it high and White goes up and gets it in front of the corner.
1:22 4 3rd and 6 ND 26 Shotgun 3-2-6 Kirk Cousins pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 8 yards to the NDame 18 for a 1ST down.
Strongside backer and corner both blitz. Young pulls out and picks up the backer while Linthicum gives the corner just enough of a shot as he releases to throw the corner off. Cunningham runs a stop route at the first down marker and Cousins throws it high. The D-back jumps up and tips it and Cunningham hauls it in and gets his feet down before falling out of bounds.
1:16 4 1st and 10 ND 18 Shotgun trips 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to Larry Caper.
Both backers blitz. Caper is lined up on the twins side far out to the sideline. Dell runs a hook to the outside and both D-backs bite on him. Caper just runs past the safety. Terrible mistake by the secondary, but Cousins overthrows a wide open Caper in the end zone. I believe that Caper was so wide open because the DBs thought he was a decoy being a running back and not a WR. Caper tries to jump but the ball is just over his fingertips. His jump is tentative anyway as he wants to keep one foot inbounds. I believe one of the taller WRs (White / Dell / Cunningham, all 3 inches taller than Caper) would have come down with that pass, but probably wouldn't have been left that far open by the secondary.
1:10 4 2nd and 10 ND 18 Shotgun 4-2-5 Kirk Cousins pass intercepted by Kyle McCarthy at the NDame 4, returned for 20 yards to the NDame 24, NOTRE DAME penalty 10 yard Illegal Block accepted.
ND is moving around a lot presnap. At the snap they don't blitz initially, then bring the weakside backer on the delayed blitz while all 5 DBs and a linebacker drop back into coverage. Both defensive ends are coming free; both Cironi and Young have been beaten. This would have been a coverage sack, putting MSU at 3rd and 19 at the ND 27 with about a minute remaining (but no time outs). Instead, Cousins wings the ball across his body in the direction of Cunningham. The throw is accurate side-to-side but is short and picked off by the safety. This play had no underneath option so it was either take the sack or get rid of the ball. Oh yeah, on the INT return Cousins pursued McCarthy to the 50 and made the tackle. There is no quit in that guy.
10 plays, 52 yards, interception. 33-30 ND, end of game.

Final thoughts:

  • The missed PAT affected MSU's game strategy on the final drive.  Had the PAT not been missed, MSU could have won the game with a field goal.  In that case, Cousins could have eaten the ball on the final throw and still had a chance to win.  As the final drive unfolded, I had the feeling that MSU was playing only for the TD.  MSU absolutely did not want to go to OT as the defense had been unsuccessful in stopping ND the entire game.  But there was going to be no OT, MSU was going for the kill.  It was a great feeling.  I was also confident that Cousins was going to lead the drive, and lead it successfully.  If not for one [bad decision, bad throw, busted coverage, bad playcall], it would have worked and entered MSU lore.  But it failed and became a learning point in the education of Kirk Cousins.
  • This offense is very good.  Cousins has a choice of skilled receivers to throw to.  It appears his first choice is Blair White; then, once White starts drawing tighter coverage, he goes to Dell or, to a lesser extent, Cunningham.  Dell played very well today, better than I remember him playing the last two years.  Martin did not play much the second half, which may be because of his inability to hold on to the ball.  Playcalling is excellent and Don Treadwell utilizes counter-moves well, adjusting to and taking advantage of whatever the defenses are giving him.  The Irish secondary is very good; they are experienced, move fast, hit hard and cover well -- and MSU picked them apart with a sophomore QB and a cobbled-together offensive line.  Credit for that goes to Treadwell and Cousins.
  • Cousins is already a good quarterback.  He is going to be a great one.  He does his reads well, is very calm and confident in the pocket (final pass notwithstanding).  He doesn't have the strongest arm but throws accurate, catchable balls for his receivers.  He is very tough, taking hits after release and popping up like nothing happened.  Most of all, he is a leader and a playmaker, he seems to have all the good qualities of Brett Favre without the gunslinger recklessness.  I believe he will learn and learn well from this final result and be a much better QB for it, and will lead MSU successfully for the next 3 years.

This is a FanPost, written by a member of the TOC community. It does not represent the official positions of The Only Colors, Inc.--largely because we have no official positions.

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