Author's note: I've scrapped the typical 'five thoughts' format this week, in favor of a broader look at the game and team. Key factors are bolded in the box score .
If you need help with terms or definitions, try these two links first:
If you still need clarification, ask in the comments.
|MSU 10, OSU 7|
|Close %||100.00%||STANDARD DOWNS|
|Enemy Territory %||41.94%||18.03%||Success Rate||45.24%||33.33%|
|Close Success Rate||38.71%||27.87%||Success Rate||26.32%||20.00%|
|Close Success Rate||24.14%||35.71%||Points off turnovers||0||0|
|Close S&P||0.402||0.478||BY QUARTER|
|Close Success Rate||51.52%||21.21%||1st Down S&P||0.639||0.404|
|Close PPP||0.360||0.189||2nd Down S&P||0.876||0.469|
|Close S&P||0.875||0.401||3rd Down S&P||0.423||0.440|
|Big Plays||4||5||Yards Per Point||32.1||25.43|
|Yards Per Play||5.1||2.97||Penalties||6 for 54||9 for 82|
Analysis after the jump...
Tell me what I need to know.
I don't understand.
Yes you do. Was it better?
Was what better?
The run game. The O-line. Was it better than it was against Notre Dame?
Yes. Everything yes.
No. A little better. They aren't good yet, but they're likely good enough.
So remember how my general thinking before the season, was that we were going to see a lot of fluctuations in play that would eventually equal out to average or good? That appears to be happening, with an emphasis on average. This was probably one of the good performances by the way. Standard stats don't really show it (less yards and less points than against ND), but S&P is pretty clear cut on the matter. A clear improvement over the ND nightmare (and the road struggles of last year for that matter)
This was one of the good performances?
Yeah, really. Pass blocking was very good. No sacks given up, and none of the three turnovers was because Cousins was under pressure.
Run blocking was okay. 5 TFL allowed on 62 offensive plays. Bell and Baker averaged 3.3 yards per carry, which is not good, but is clearly good enough to win with a lights out defensive performance. Furthermore:
-Bell and Baker quarter's 1-3
16 carries for 70 yards (4.3 YPC)
-Bell and Baker 4th quarter
10 carries for 16 yards (1.6 YPC)
For 3 quarters the run game was perfectly respectable. It was only in the last quarter when things (probably predictably) dried up. Dantonio rightfully shortened the game in the 4th quarter, and played the field position card against Ohio State to great effect. Cousins actually threw 3 passes and went, 0/3, 2 INT, in the 4th quarter. When (and in my opinion it's not if, but when) Cousins finally starts clicking with this year's offense and settles down a little, there won't be so many stacked fronts late in these close games, or if there are, teams will pay for them.
That's one of the best front sevens in the conference, at their house. There's no shame in our offensive performance outside of the turnovers.
Yeah, about that. How about those devastating, devastating turnovers?
Ugh, but ugh with a side of silver lining.
First off, all three turnovers were bad in terms of killing drives (which, dur). They are directly the reason why we didn't score more, why we didn't get boosted more in the polls, why people are comparing our game to killing modern football. Let's get that out of the way right now. But here's some good news:
1. They were all on OSU's side of the field, and none got returned for significant yardage. “But that makes it way worse! We're losing scoring opportunities!” You might be crying out. Yes, turning the ball over in the red zone is painful, but turning it over on your own 20, 30, 40 yard line is much worse, particularly for this team.
The three turnovers gave OSU the ball on the OSU 24, the OSU 20, and the OSU 37. Here are the teams that I'd guess will be able to reliably turn those mistakes into points from those starting points against this MSU defensive unit: Wisconsin, maybe Michigan. Everyone else, at least currently, is either too mistake prone (Nebraska), too one-dimensional (Iowa, Northwestern), or just too bad (Indiana, Minnesota) on offense to worry me too much.
MSU has lost 7 turnovers so far this year, but only given up 9 points off of those turnovers.
2. Look at the three turnovers themselves
A. Cousins does the old, 'throw the pin, but the not the grenade' trick and has a Tommy Rees special. Man, who cares. Seriously, this won't happen again this year, unless Kirk Cousins takes an overhead ladder, black cat, and broken mirror factory tour.
B. Cousins misfires on a fade to our best fade route guy, but miss-fires in the way he's probably supposed to (a little too deep and not too short). The DB covering Sims arguably interferes with Sims arms and ability to jump before the ball gets there, and Sims doesn't help matters by not properly boxing out the defender behind him. Now here's where things get weird. More often than not when Roby gets his hand to that ball, it's going to fall to the ground or harmlessly out of bounds. Here, it floats up in the air perfectly for an OSU defender to come in and make a heads up interception in the back corner of the end zone. Can we file this under, 'good OSU play' and not OMG FIRE COUSINS please?
C. Ok, this interception is OMG FIRE COUSINS. I think I know what he's trying to do here. He wants to throw over the top of this CB to Cunningham who is slightly open behind him on the sideline. It would require a great throw to make this work, high and where if Cunningham doesn't catch it, it's going OOB. Instead, he makes a really bad under throw right into the hands of the waiting corner. Bad idea, bad throw. Because of how he rolls out and the camera follows him, I can't see, but I think he has his RB available on a swing pass to the weak side. I'd prefer if he takes that option or throws this ball away in the future. At least he arm punted it.
Give it to me straight doc. Offense?
I think everything's gonna be alright. Five reasons:
1. The offense is consistently moving the ball (two 400 yard games, three 300 yard games), they're just turning it over at couch-punchingly frustrating times. They've entered the red zone 25 times (t-10th in the country) and they aren't particularly turnover prone (t-41st nationally). Bennie Fowler returning can only help.
2. Slow, small, but real improvements in offensive line play from week 1 to week 5. Several times RBs had holes they didn't have earlier in the season, and Cousins usually had plenty of time, even if he didn't use it very well.
3. We're way down at 106th in Red Zone conversions. A. that can basically only go up and B. the red zone is a strange mystery zone of execution, play calling, and luck in a way that is more exaggerated than any other part of the field. Past performances do not indicate future results here. We're leaving lots of points on the board, but they're doing it early in the season. And as a rule, teams who gain good yardage, but average points, are over time better bets than teams who gain a good amount of points, but average yardage. Yards usually require offensive execution in a way that is often more tangible than total points (see: defensive touchdowns, special teams touchdowns, long field goals, and short scoring drives inflating point totals).
4. Conroy is a hell of a field goal kicker, and this team is going to set our offense up with advantageous field goal position like very few other teams in the country will be able to replicate. Case in point: We boned up a lot of scoring chances, but when we got the ball on the OSU 39 with the wind at our back, even we couldn't screw that up. Conroy nailed a 50-yarder and that sealed the game away.
5. We've almost certainly already played the two best defenses on our schedule (And before anyone points to the stats and says Michigan, I'm going to respectfully wait for them to hit the road for a few weeks and see if their absolutely absurd fumbles and red zone luck continues [#1 in the nation in both stats. That can't keep up, right?]. That said, they've looked good so far). I still maintain there are enough play-makers to go nuts on some weaker defense eventually this year.
Two reasons everything might be all wrong:
1. Cousins might be slightly broke and he might not be getting fixed. The tunnel vision and 1 bad interception every week are troubling. This outcome is unlikely, but wouldn't exactly be unprecedented. I'm in the Rexrode camp in that I thought he played pretty good against OSU, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about him DERPing a little against an aggressive Michigan scheme in two weeks.
2. Injuries that really just can't happen, or MSU is in a world of hurt: Cunningham, B.J.; Line, Any more of the offensive.
The ill-fated blitz
(In the OSU press room after the game)
Reporter: “Coach Narduzzi, why did you call that blitz on the OSU touchdown?”
Narduzzi “YEE-HAW! I'm out of my mind! CLICK. CLACK.” (Narduzzi flips the table and begins firing a machine pistol off into the air of the press room)
But seriously, I get why people are pissed at giving up the shutout with ten seconds left. I don't get why people are getting all worked up over the play call. Criticizing the blitz there reeks of 20/20 hindsight. Just because Millen was calling for the prevent from the commentator's box doesn't mean that was the right call. Blitz's had been getting home all game, and Bauserman was playing like the most nervous, shaky, 5th year senior I've ever seen (seriously did anyone in either fan base think for even a moment that that dude was going to make up that 10 point defecit?).
And go back and watch the play again. It was a fine call. This wasn't some jailbreak zero blitz.
OSU was lined up in a three wide, one tight end, one RB shotgun set. Narduzzi, out of the 3-3-5, sent 3 DL and 2 LB. The RB stays to block (and even the TE was running a delayed route) and OSU wins the 6 on 5 battle, meaning MSU has six players back covering four wide outs. Bauserman throws the ball just over the outstretched arm of Bullough who had dropped into coverage in the middle of the field. Spencer catches it at about the five yard line, and Trenton Robinson is right there, right there, in perfect position to make the tackle or force the ball loose and... well, he didn't. He lowered his shoulder to try and level him, but ended up bouncing off. If he wraps up there, or delivers a better hit, the game is probably over, or at least very close to being over. Be angry at the execution if you must, but don't blame the play call.
And as a side note, I'm not sure I've ever seen Narduzzi call a more aggressive game plan, not even in 2009 when Greg Jones was seemingly blitzing every down. In particular, some of those corner blitzes were audacious to the point of being almost suicidal. But they got home a shockingly high percentage of the time, and turned a couple of sub-par quarterbacks into 'warm liquid goo' levels of bad. I wouldn't expect to see him be near that aggressive against the better offenses on our schedule (nor would I really want him to be), but just the fact that such a high level of attacking defense exists if we need it, is a nice club to have in the bag. In other words:
Dear teams with 1st year quarterbacks (Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa),
Pat Narduzzi hates your fucking guts and is going to make you poop all of your pants.
You didn't read this far, because Denicos Allen already hit you for a loss.
Some merit to shots at our strength of schedule:
|Rank||Team||Win||Loss||Opponent Win-Loss||BCS||Non BCS||FCS||Home Games||Road Games|
The win-loss % is bad (thanks 0-4 FAU), but we should get credit for the Home-Road split (unlike undefeateds, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin who need to prove they can do it away from the friendly confines). Northwestern has had a rough go of it when it comes to getting home games, but at least they've likely enjoyed playing in full stadiums (IT'S A NORTHWESTERN ATTENDANCE JOKE LADIES AND GENTLEMEN).
Offense: reason for optimism/regression back to the mean in turnovers/red zone play. Very average results through five games.
Defense: C'mon, you know what I think: they're a pack of armored bears riding motorcycles. Updated chart to carry in your wallet to fend off Strength of Schedule attacks:
|Youngstown State Offense|
|YSU's other 3 games||48.67||528|
|v. Michigan State||7||254|
|Florida Atlantic Offense|
|FAU's other 3 games||17||256|
|v. Michigan State||0||48|
|Notre Dame Offense|
|ND's other 4 games||26||492.5|
|v. Michigan State||31||275|
|Central Michigan Offense|
|CMU's other 4 games||16||333.67|
|v. Michigan State||7||112|
|Ohio State Offense|
|OSU's other 4 games||28||340.75|
|v. Michigan State||7||178|
Special teams: No major mistakes (unless a slightly fumbled punt snap that still went off for a decent gain is a mistake, but I'm going results-based on this, so no. Also not a mistake: missing a 51 yard field goal against the wind). DO YOUR DANCE, DO YOUR DANCE, THE WAY YOU MOVE IS A MYSTERY. Very encouraging performance, but let's give it another week before we signal the all clear.
Hands up, anyone who had us at 5-0 at this point before the season? I certainly didn't (though I had us losing @OSU and not @ND). We're right on schedule as far as I'm concerned. I still have us marked down for at least three loses, because eventually the D will have a bad game, and I'm unconvinced the O will be able to pick up the slack. But two weeks ago, 7-5 looked distinctly possible, and now, not so much. And in a below average Big Ten, Indianapolis isn't crazy talk.
This was a big win for the program, and MSU fans should absolutely enjoy it, even if that OSU team might be headed for the dumpster of the Big Ten this year. Dantonio now has scalps from Ann Arbor, Happy Valley, and Columbus hanging off his belt. A shot to add Kinnick to the list looms large in November. Michigan looms much larger on Oct. 15.
HATE FORTNIGHT STARTS... NOW.