To the casual observer, don't let the final score fool you. Keith Nichol and Keshawn Martin both produced the best they could in the 4th quarter to make the final score closer than it would appear. If you watched this whole game though, you know the truth; that the offensive and defensive lines of Michigan State could not execute adequately. Read more about today's loss (guest editorial from Charlie Brown - AGGGHHHHHHH!!!) after the jump.
Where to start? The lines would be a good place. On offense, here were the seven starters listed : Rocco Cironi, Ethan Ruhland, Joel Foreman, John Stipek, Joel Nitchman, Brendon Moss, and D.J. Young. Of those seven, two have had injury issues in the past month (Cironi and Nitchman), one's a redshirt freshman (Ruhland), one's a converted defensive lineman (Stipek), one more is a new transfer (Young), and one was beginning to see his first significant starts (Moss). Of all those seven, the only one I completely trust right now is Foreman, and I think you can see where I'm going with this line of thought.
Cousins and Nichol were consistently pressured in the pocket, making Cousins look like the first-year starter that he is and influencing Nichol into throwing a horrendous interception in the first half. The running game was actually decent, as Glenn Winston and Larry Caper combined to rush for over 5 yards a carry (Caulton Ray, not so good - three rushes for zero yards). I think we'll see Winston as at least the back-up running back, if not the starter against Michigan, as he clearly showed the most burst today.
Regardless, the pass blocking that had been so good the past three games was mediocre today, as Cousins was continually pressed into throwing earlier than he wanted, leading to passes over his receivers' heads. Cousins looked human, but it's his fourth game starting - he's going to have a bad game sometime, and today was his day to have one.
As for the defensive line, I suppose more MSU fans are going to call for defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi's head, but that won't change the fact that the defensive line could not consistently pass rush the quarterback without the help of a blitz. If you're wondering why Narduzzi calls blitzes on third down, it's because he has to - the front four can't provide the needed pressure otherwise. Even when the blitz worked, Scott Tolczien was often able to find the open man; look to the second touchdown if you need more proof.
This is not to say the secondary is inculpable. There were numerous times today were pass plays could have been prevented if the coverage was adequate. What I am suggesting is that the secondary is currently out on an island, and would look much better if it was being supported by an efficient pass rush.
If you're looking for positives to take out of this game, there are two that I can see: That Glenn Winston might establish himself as the starting running back, and that Keshawn Martin, albeit late in the game, can be a deep receiving threat.
Alright, I'm done venting. I'm going out to have some fun tonight in East Lansing, and wherever you are, I suggest you do the same. Life's short, and it's dumb to feel sad for too long about the result of a game. At the very least, that's what I'll keep telling myself.