September 15, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) is sacked by Michigan State Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun (89) during the first half at Spartan Stadium. Credit: Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE
1) Offense? What is this "offense" you speak of?
The running game was so-so - 80 yards on 21 carries, a 3.8 average (sacks removed). That was the good news. Andrew Maxwell spent much of the game running for his life, being sacked four times for 30 yards and barely completing half of his passes (23/45 for 187 yards). The offensive line had a terrible night pass-blocking; most of the pass plays were short dump-offs because Maxwell was going to get killed if he waited for a deep route to come open. When the ball did get out, it was often wobbly and Maxwell's intended targets often had trouble hanging on. The offense never seemed to get into any sort of rhythm and took far too long to adjust to the few things that were working.
On the plus side, no turnovers, and this is one of the strongest front 7s we'll face all year. Few of our Big Ten opponents will be able to replicate that sort of pressure. So we've got that going for us, which is nice.
2) The defense still looks great, but they can't do it on their own.
300 yards and 20 points is not a bad outing against a solid Notre Dame offense, but with the offense unable to move the ball effectively the D was consistently put in bad field-position situations (both TDs came with Notre Dame starting at midfield) and eventually wore down. The Irish came up with a few big plays, and that was enough.
3) Special teams needs some work.
Punt returns were ineffective all game long (kickoffs were moot, as Notre Dame just booted the ball out the back every time), a roughing the kicker penalty extended one Irish drive (which finished with a punt again), and Dan Conroy missed a FG for the third straight game (although he also made a 50-yarder). Those are mistakes we can survive when the offense is moving the ball. Tonight, they just compounded the field position woes.
There was also a touchback on one punt, but that happens when you punt from the opposition's 38 yard line - which is why that's something you should never do. I'd gladly give up 15-20 yards of field position for a reasonable chance at continuing the possession.
4) Best wishes for Manti Te'o.
Losing your grandmother and girlfriend within a day of each other? This had to be a very difficult week for him, and while I wish the outcome tonight had been different, I hope things go much better for him from here on out.
5) The Big Ten title is still very much in play.
Everybody in the Big Ten has had at least one rotten game already except, possibly, Ohio State (and they're ineligible). If the offense can get out of neutral, the defense can still carry us a long way - 21 points a game should be enough to win almost every time out. Can the offense get there? We shall see. There have been enough moments of effectiveness for me to think it's possible if the OL can give Maxwell time (Fou Fonoti's injury in practice this week may turn out to be a very costly one) and he can develop some degree of rapport with his receivers (other than Dion Sims and Keith Mumphery, who both seem to already be there).
Leave your thoughts on the game here.