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Finding the statistical downside to a 44-3 victory

Given the high level of interest in Michigan State's first down tendencies over the last year, my plan is to track first down stats on a more detailed level this season.

Despite the overall big numbers MSU put up on offense against Montana State in Saturday's game, the numbers on first down were less than stellar, particularly in the first half.

Rushing stats:

Att Yards Yds/Att TD
First Half 10 44 4.4 0
Second Half 12 63 5.3 0
Total 22 107 4.9 0


Those numbers aren't abysmal, but they're far from what you'd hope for against a mediocre FCS opponent.  And 20 of the 44 yards gained in the first half were on Caulton Ray's big run.  For the game, MSU gained 4 yards or more on only 10 of 21 first-and-10+ rushing attempts (one attempt came from Montana State's 3-yard line).

Passing stats:

Comp Att Yards Comp% Yds/Att TD Int
First Half 3 9 48 33.3 5.3 1 0
Second Half 2 4 35 50.0 8.8 1 0
Total 5 13 83 38.5 6.4 2 0


Here's where the bigger concern is: A lack of efficiency on first down passing attempts.  There are two 20+ yard touchdown throws in there (one by each QB).  Beyond that, neither quarterback found much success gaining positive yardage through the air.  Obviously, they made up for it on 2nd and 3rd downs (14-22 for 235 yards), but going forward they won't have the same room to operate on 2nd and 10 as they did against the Bobcats.

The run-pass ratio was pretty even in the first half at 10-9.  In the second half, things tilted toward the run: 12-4.  This  supports CPT Hoolie's theory: Mark Dantonio loves to run the ball, but he mostly loves to run it in when his team has a big lead.  Given that this team doesn't appear to have a dominating running game, MSU will need to pass the ball quite a bit on first down in close games.  The second set of numbers above will need to improve markedly for the team to find offensive success against opponents with equal talent.