Michigan State 55, Youngstown State 17: Kneejerk Reactions

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Quick thoughts after a game that went so much better than most of us feared.

1) The offense exists!

I don't want to read too much into pantsing a 1-AA team, but considering that both of our previous opponents lost to 1-AA teams and the offense managed two touchdowns in those games combined, hammering somebody that we're supposed to hammer counts as major progress. Both Connor Cook and Tyler O'Connor had time to throw and made use of it. The receivers made some tough catches and I don't remember a single drop. The ground game was solid. It all adds up to 30 first downs, 7 touchdowns, and 547 yards of offense, split almost evenly between rushing and passing.

Given the quality of the competition, it's unlikely we'll see the same sort of dominance against the rest of our schedule. But this is a big, big step forward, and a competent offense with this defense can go a long way in this division this year.

2) The QB question appears to be settled - temporarily, at least.

After two weeks of ugly performances from all of the quarterbacks, Cook staked a claim to the starting job with a 15 for 22, 202 yard, 4 TD performance, adding 25 yards on two carries as well. O'Connor came in for mop-up duty and looked solid as well (7/10, 68 yards, 4 rushes for 18 yards). At this point, it would be a big surprise to see anyone other than Cook starting next week. His running ability opens up a lot of options; if he can throw the ball adequately and make good decisions, the job appears to be his to lose.

3) Special teams are a little bit concerning.

The punt return team put up some big yardage, but Andre Sims (4 returns, 45 yards, long of 23) fumbled one to set up Youngstown State's first touchdown of the day. Nick Hill (who also had a big day in the backfield, with 9 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown) and Macgarrett Kings each had a return of 10+ yards. A big kickoff return across midfield by Nick Liste for Youngstown State set up the other Penguin touchdown.

On the kicking side, Kevin Muma hit two chip-shot FGs and seven PATs, while Mike Sadler was his usual self in (thankfully) limited duty - two punts, 40.5 yard average, one downed at the 2 yard line.

4) The defense put up another impressive performance.

Both touchdown drives by Youngstown State started in MSU territory (one in garbage time well after the game was out of reach, albeit still against the first-team defense). YSU went 2 for 12 on 3rd down, 11 for 27 throwing, just 3.7 yards per play and 172 yards total. Two turnovers forced led to 10 points, though the defense generously let the offense take it from there this time instead of scoring themselves.

Caveats abound, of course - it's only a 1-AA team - but any sort of progress on offense, regardless of competition level, is welcome news after the first two weeks. Bring on Notre Dame.

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