Aug 31, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Le'Veon Bell (24) is tackled by Boise State Broncos cornerback Jerrell Gavins (4) in the end zone to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US Presswire
Five quick thoughts on tonight's victory:
1. Ask not over whom the Bell rolls, Broncos. He rolls over thee.
What a game for Le'Veon Bell. From @spartansordie, via my2fish in the game thread:
Le’Veon Bell: 210 rushing yards. Boise State: 206 total yards. Yup.
And that doesn't even include 55 receiving yards. On a night where the offense was sputtering frequently, Bell was the one constant, scoring both touchdowns and grinding out 39 yards on the final, clock-killing drive.
2. The passing game: some rays of hope, but definitely not there yet.
I'm not sure Andrew Maxwell was as good or as bad as the stats say. 22/38, 248 yards is nothing to sneeze at, but a lot of the incompletions were bullets that the receivers couldn't hang on to and this led to multiple turnovers. Boise State got three interceptions, two of which were on deflections off the receivers, and a forced fumble at the end of Tony Lippett's long catch. On the other hand, that means only one of the turnovers was a bad decision by Maxwell; if he can take a little bit off some of the passes, the accuracy is already mostly there. (There was another falling-down pass thrown by Maxwell, which I would be much more irritated about if there had been a defender within 10 yards of the receiver.)
There were some bright spots. Dion Sims did have a nice game with 7 catches for 65 yards, most in key spots. The passing game won't have to be spectacular if the defense (more on that in a bit) and Bell can play this well all year, but it will probably have to be better than it was tonight if this team is going to end the Rose Bowl drought.
3. The defense looks every bit as good as advertised.
Some caveats apply, of course - small sample size, first-time starting QB, four new starters on the offensive line. But to hold Chris Petersen's offensive wizardry to barely over 200 yards is no small feat. Boise's famous trickery was on full display with a flea-flicker and double pass on back-to-back plays; the flea-flicker went for 23 yards but Darqueze Dennard wasn't even remotely fooled on the double pass and broke it up easily. The Broncos targeted him all night and didn't get much (outside of one pass interference penalty) to show for it. Running the ball didn't go well either; featured back D.J. Harper got a whopping 8 yards on 15 carries.
All 13 points, to some degree, were the result of MSU turnovers and not really on the defense - the touchdown was a pick-six and both field goals came on drives starting at the MSU 30 or in closer. The only Boise drive to exceed 35 yards ended with a juggling interception at the goal line by RJ Williamson.
4. New kickoff rules: if the intent was to make touchbacks more common, MISSION FAILED.
Only one touchback out of eight kickoffs, and both teams seemed to be actively trying to avoid kicking the ball into the endzone. Which makes sense - why give the other guys the ball at the 25 when you can put some air under the ball and make them catch it right in front of the goal line with the defenders getting a five-yard head start (relative to last year) and having more hang time on the kickoff to get even closer to the return man? I expect the "touchbacks at the 25" rule to go the way of Hated Rule 3-2-5(e) before next season.
5. Too many penalties.
10 for 80 yards, to be specific. That includes a roughing-the-passer call and a later three-play sequence which involved a chop block, a false start, and a late hit out of bounds by punter Mike Sadler, of all people. There's a fine line between aggressive and stupid, and there was a span in which it looked like we were on the wrong side of it. Hopefully it was first-game jitters.
That about sums it up for me. It wasn't necessarily pretty, but it's a win. What are your thoughts?