For those who haven't seen it, The U (besides being one of the most entertaining documentaries I've ever seen) chronicles the rise of the Miami Hurricanes. With talent and swagger -- not to mention suspenders -- a nothing program turned into a juggernaut in the '80s and '90s. Successful? Yes. Pissed off the establishment? Of course. Dubious in their sportsmanship? Undoubtedly (Strike through for unsuccessful analogy - PR).
For better and worse (MONDAY MORNING EDIT -- Almost all for the better, I should say. The personal fouls stuck in my craw a bit, but the main comparison I wanted to draw to Miami was MSU's swagger, along with the personal fouls. I never meant to imply MSU as an institution was reckless, and should have stated it clearer. Mea culpa - PR), some of those traits were displayed by Michigan State in their convincing 28-14 victory over the Michigan Wolverines.
First the bad -- the penalties. UGH UGH UGH UGH UGH. Johnny Adams's personal foul (a shove of a Michigan receiver already out of bounds) was overly aggressive and not the first 15-yard penalty he's picked up this year. I didn't see Marcus Rush rough Denard Robinson, so I can't testify as to how brutal that hit was. Isaiah Lewis really could've done without showing the ball to Denard on his pick six. Even though the taunting rule that takes back a touchdown is one of the dumbest rules to exist in history on any scope, it's best not to allow the referees any chance to take back a touchdown.
Speaking of brutal, William Gholston. The punch delivered to Taylor Lewan shouldn't have happened, I don't care who did what first. First, that type of aggression is completely uncalled for, and second, the retaliator always gets flagged. Always. Sadly, that wasn't the worst foul Gholston committed, as he not only piled onto Denard Robinson after the whistle blew, but twisted his face mask 90 degrees. To do that to a defenseless player is indefensible, and he definitely owes Robinson an apology. I'd be absolutely stunned if he wasn't suspended for at least one game for that foul, and possibly more. I just hope Mark Dantonio finally does it.
Enough with the hand-wringing. First and foremost, the offensive line played the best it has all season against one of the better defensive lines in the conference. Kirk Cousins did not suffer a sack on the day. The line helped Edwin Baker once again solidify his spot as the starter. He was routinely running for 4-5 yards, even breaking a few for more than 10 yards. The fumble was the only black mark on the day, and it's nice to have him back.
Cousins played an efficient game not shown by the stats. He completed 13 of his 24 passes (which should've been more due to a few drops) for 120 yards and 2 TDs. Even though more of the credit for the two touchdowns should go to Keshawn Martin's nifty moves, Kirk deserves the credit for not trying to make the low-probability heroic play and going for the high-probability safe play. I wish the receivers could've had better hands today, but given that B.J. Cunningham committed one or two of the drops, I'm not too worried.
The defense, disregarding the penalties (I'll get back to those in a bit) might have been the best I've ever seen. After the first drive in which Michigan went 80 yards in 10 plays for a score, the defense absolutely swarmed and caught the quarterbacking duo of Robinson and Devin Gardner for seven sacks. The back seven for the most part (WRAP ROUNDTREE UP NEXT TIME) covered the Michigan receivers well enough to keep the Michigan quarterbacks from finding anyone wide open downfield. I thought the defense would be effective, but nowhere near to the extent it was Saturday.
I'm not going to lie -- the penalties still trouble me, especially the egregious ones by Gholston. He clearly let his emotions get the best of him (I'm not going to call him a thug -- this is the first time Gholston's had any penalties as dirty as the two he committed in the game, hopefully they do not happen again), and needs to bear the consequences (some sort of suspension) of punching one player and twisting the face mask of a defenseless player.
The other penalties need to stop as well. While MSU was good enough to beat Michigan with 128 yards of penalties and gifting the Wolverines six first downs, that absolutely will not fly in five days against Wisconsin. I was a bit confused by Pat Narduzzi saying that they were looking for "consistent 'unnecessary roughness' in a matter of speaking",but offered this quote as well:
"I think so. If I’m a quarterback I’m going, ‘Wait a minute, what’s coming at me,’ especially after last week. … You know, we don’t want to hurt anybody. I feel bad (Robinson) was laying on the ground. I didn’t see it, I was looking downfield, I don’t know if it was late, but we don’t need those 15-yarders. And that’s probably the most disappointing thing. We’re a classy, disciplined football team and we haven’t done that all year."
Before this game Michigan State committed on average 46.2 yards in penalties per game, which would rank 41st in the FBS. I feel that Narduzzi intimated that he felt that a few penalites were necessary to play great defense but I don't think that's true; Alabama was and is in the top ten for fewest penalties yards last year and this year. The 128 yards racked up by MSU was an anomaly, so I'm hopeful an undisciplined performance by a few players this past game won't occur again.
Let's take this victory for what it was -- a great win over a very good opponent slightly marred by several dumb penalties and a couple horrific ones. Wisconsin comes to town on Saturday under a national spotlight, and a win there (it's going to be clean, because I don't see how MSU commits many penalties andwins) will make MSU the favorite in the Legends division, if not the Big Ten entire.