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Straight up S&P sees an acceptable performance and one team being pretty superior to the other. I (and the rest of you) see a struggle to beat a really bad Minnesota team at home. The truth is somewhere in between, but man, this game was supposed to be so much easier than it was. Let's hope it was just a bad outing and be happy that our B/C game was good enough to grab a win and vault us back to the top of the Legends standings.
|MSU 31, Minn 24|
|Close %||100.00%||STANDARD DOWNS|
|Enemy Territory %||66.67%||26.39%||Success Rate||50.00%||32.50%|
|Close Success Rate||40.00%||36.11%||Success Rate||22.73%||40.63%|
|Close Success Rate||32.00%||23.68%||Points off turnovers||7||3|
|Close S&P||0.729||0.361||BY QUARTER|
|Close Success Rate||45.71%||50.00%||1st Down S&P||1.040||0.360|
|Close PPP||0.511||0.535||2nd Down S&P||0.608||1.083|
|Close S&P||0.968||1.035||3rd Down S&P||0.937||0.759|
|Big Plays||6||2||Yards Per Point||12.97||17.29|
|Yards Per Play||6.48||5.61||Penalties||5 for 40||8 for 73|
Jerry Kill's squad of ninjas have kidnapped your chance at a Big Ten Championship.
Are you a bad enough dude to save it?
A game plan gone wrong
I'm pretty sure I can figure out what the MSU defense was trying to do against Minnesota: let them run into the jagged teeth of the MSU run defense on 1st and 2nd down, set them up on 3rd and long, and watch them fail to pass and have to punt.
And the plan half worked. On first down Minnesota ran the football on 24 times out of 30. Clearly this was a team that was terrified to let Gray chuck it on first down. And furthermore, they weren't even any good at gaining yards off these first down runs, setting them up in lots of 2nd down, passing downs. So what'd they do on 2nd down? Of course, they aired it out. Minnesota threw on 16 out of 26 2nd downs. They were enormously successful doing this, and I think the sight of Gray pulling up to throw on say, 2nd and 8, was catching MSU off guard. When they didn't connect on this second and long, Minnesota often went into their shell and ran near useless run plays to get into punting situations, to the rapturous applause of known puntasaur Glenn Mason. The play where McKnight broke FOUR tackles (including wearing Johnny Adams as a backpack into the end zone) on his way to a 64 yard touchdown was the type of fundamental breakdown we've been lucky to avoid for most of this year, and happened on one of these second downs.
To the credit of the Spartan defenders, Minnesota finally started following the script a little more in the 4th quarter and Gray turned from 'mobile artillery piece' to, well, 'Marquise Gray'. But still, I think this closeness of this game falls pretty squarely on the defense and their inability to adjust quickly enough.
A game plan gone right (mostly)
Similarly, the offensive game plan seemed pretty simple too. Kirk Cousins was going to attack the hell out of the Minnesota back four, whose typically state of being was furiously back pedaling at all times. Nowhere was this more clear or efficient than when the offense warped down the field in less than a minute to give the Spartans the lead entering halftime. Once the safeties were sufficiently cowed from even thinking about stepping into the box for run support, it would be the Bell and Baker show.
Why did things not go quite as smooth as they could have? Edwin "Goddamn it Baker!" Baker got a case of the fumblies, again, right outside of our own red zone, handing the Gophers some easy points and pushing back our field position.
Which leads to a question: what to do with Edwin Baker? I've heard some in the fan base want to phase him out of the run game and make Bell the Coker-esque workhorse. While Bell has pretty clearly solidified that he should receive the greater share of carries, I'd caution against relegating Baker to the bench too often.
For one, I'm not sure Bell is a 25 carry a game running back yet, especially this late in the season. His career high in carries is just 17, last year against ND. If those extra ten or so carries go to Bell or Caper, I think the risk-reward in keeping Bell fresh and healthy makes that a good idea to spell him, even if the drop off in YPC might be a yard or so.
Second, as devastating as these Baker fumbles have been, against both Wisconsin and Minnesota it seemed like the ball just kind of got, jarred loose. It doesn't seem like he's doing anything fundamentally wrong carrying or protecting it. After contemplating it under a bodhi tree for several hours, I kind of agree with Dantonio's Zen koan that Baker has fumbled, but isn't a fumbler..
Finally, I think Baker still has at least one strong, Michigan-like performance in him this season and deserves to get a couple series to find out if that's true. If he gets to 6-8 carries and isn't moving the chains, take him out, but I'm not ready to give up on him this year.
Complaints about Dan Roushar:
I think it's accurate to say the fan base has coalesced around a handful of complaints about our offensive coordinator. I'm going to try and address these in a longish post sometime in the next couple weeks as I think some complainsts are valid, but some very much aren't. "Get rid of Dan Roushar" has gone from joke, to plausible, to necessity in the eyes of part of the fanbase and I don't see it yet. So here's the list I've got:
-He throws too much on first down
-He throws too much on 3rd down and short (particularity out of five wide shotgun)
-He throws deep too much
-He throws too short on 3rd and long
-He doesn't use the tight ends enough
-He doesn't run Bell enough
-He runs Baker too much
Anything I'm missing? I want to make sure I'm not doing this half-assed.
Brief thoughts on Iowa:
Look, I can't prognosticate. I think for the year I'm like, 3-3 straight up in our BCS games (right: UM, MINN, WIS. wrong: ND, OSU, NEB). So I don't really know if we're going to win or lose. But I have a feeling MSU is seeing a little 'Good Coach, Bad Coach' right now.
I have a feeling that Dantonio and Narduzzi are going to lock the defensive line in dog cages and only feed them plain bowls of Alpha-bits cereal that have all letters removed except C-O-K-E-R. I have a feeling the linebackers will be forced to run endless sprints through the sandpit under a heat lamp while being pummeled with bags of grain labeled K.M.M., B.H., and C.J.F. And I have a feeling the MSU secondary will be relentlessly water boarded as "Roll Iowa" blares over speakers on a loop and neon signs flash "MARVIN MCNUTT" and a modulated voice shouts "KEENAN DAVIS".
On the other hand, I have a feeling the offense will meet each day to enjoy an assortment of delicious (but healthy!) snacks and juices as they sit down with a battery of sports psychologists, who will play Wii Sports with them as they try to get to the roots of their road woes. I have a feeling they will pause after each unsuccessful practice play to receive a hug from their position coach and the assertion that, "It's okay buddy. Everyone here believes in you." I have a feeling that somewhere in every offensive play of this week's playbook will be a hidden smiley face, and at the end of each offensive player's university class, Mark Hollis will be waiting out in the hallway to give them each a firm handshake and congratulate them on their drive and focus, to the rousing applause of their classmates.
I don't know if any of this stuff will work either, but we're probably gonna be okay. Just a feeling.