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Biggies and Slappies: Florida Atlantic

In case you missed last week's post, herein I rather arbitrarily distribute two sets of awards: Biggies (named for Biggie Munn) to each week's best players/coaches/what-have-you, and Slappies (named after, well, you know) to the week's sub-par performers.  And, onward:


Biggie_icon_medium  Edwin BakerLe'Veon Bell took the top billing last week, but this week we'll give it to Baker, who had a tremendous afternoon running the football.  Baker ran the ball 15 times for 183 yards, including an 80 yard touchdown run.  That's 12.3 yards per carry--and even if you discount the 80 yarder as an outlier, he still averaged 7.4 yards on his other carries.  He showed quickness, top end speed, the ability to change direction--just about everything you could want.  An outstanding performance.

Biggie_icon_medium Dan Conroy3 for 3 on field goals; all of the kicks were longer than 40 yards, and each was absolutely pure.  How many kickers hit 50-yarders this early in their career?  (And that kick would have been good from at least 55, perhaps more.)  We were all concerned about the kicking game this season; Conroy is looking better than any of us could have hoped.

Biggie_icon_medium Kevin Muma and the kickoff coverage team.  While we're on the subject of kickers: Muma looked very good kicking off, and the kickoff coverage team swarmed FAU's returners.  FAU's best starting position following an MSU kickoff was the 26, and the average starting position was only the 23.  Kicking in a dome no doubt helped Muma's (and Conroy's, for that matter) confidence and performance, but overall, we've seen very good things from the kicking game thus far.

Biggie_icon_medium  The offensive line.  Through two games, MSU has 522 yards rushing; that's nearly 30% of last season's entire total.  Baker and Bell get the headlines, but the offensive line deserves much of the credit: they've opened huge holes for our backs.  I thought J'Michael Deane had a particularly strong game game run blocking -- his pull over to the left side of the line on Baker's long TD run was a thing of beauty.  Of course, Deane also was burned on FAU's only sack on the day, and some will question the unit's pass protection.  Personally, I thought they were fine.  Bonus points for finishing the game with no false starts or holding penalties.

Biggie_icon_medium  Keshawn Martin.  A week after a disappointing performance, Keshawn gets back on the right side of the ledger.  His 47-yard punt return in the first quarter set up MSU's first touchdown, and while I still get antsy about the possibility of fumbles, to his credit, Martin fielded everything cleanly.  A 42-yard catch-and-run completed a nice day for Keshawn.

Biggie_icon_medium Colin NeelyFor my money, MSU's best defensive player on the day.  Neely had 5 tackles--three of which were for losses, including a sack--and one official quarterback hurry.  (IMO, he had a few others that the official scorer didn't credit.)  A solid effort, and one he'll need to reprise this Saturday.

Biggie_icon_medium Team Discipline.  State had 4 penalties for 43 yards, but those penalties were a block in the back, and three pass interference calls.  Of course, those are big penalties and need to be worked on, but the key for me was that there were no indiscipline penalties: no offside calls on offense or defense, no delay of game penalties, no substitution infractions, or anything else of the like.  Contrast that to last week's haul of three false starts, two defensive offsides, and a delay of game; there was a big improvement here.  A one-week Slappy-to-Biggie rebound.

More, after the jump.


Biggie_icon_medium The safeties.  Hyde and Robinson missed a few tackles, and that prevents them from achieving full Biggie status.  But the two of them also broke up 4 passes (2 each) and did a fairly good job of preventing big passing plays from occurring.  (FAU's longest play was an underneath route gone bad, and not really the safeties' fault.)  They'll be tested in a big way by ND's passing offense, but after two games I'm confident that we're better at this position than we were last year.

Biggie_icon_medium Le'Veon Bell.  Ran really well for the second consecutive week, but man, did he ever look like a freshman on his fumble.



Slappy_icon_medium Pat Narduzzi. I'll refrain from a full shotgunning because of the extenuating circumstances here: FAU was an expected win game, and one which came a week before a rivalry matchup against a good offense.  Consequently, the decision to run a very base, vanilla defense with few blitz calls and virtually no exotic packages was almost certainly the correct decision, and one which perhaps led to a poorer defensive performance than would otherwise have been the case.  Nonetheless, it's impossible to overlook the fundamental issues with this defense, and the fact that they don't seem to be getting better.  Secondary breakdowns were numerous.  FAU's tight ends were barely covered at all, and on the Owls' final drive, MSU nobody was within 10 yards of Lester Jean, who turned a seven yard cross into a 41 yard gain.  The tackling was poor, as Dantonio noted: "We did not tackle as well this week on the perimeter. I saw some missed tackles. I saw some big hits and they ran through those."  Most distressingly, two of the three pass interference penalties were direct results of atrocious defensive form, where our defenders were out-of-position or simply panicked as the ball approached.  As SpartanDan wrote:

The secondary was making basic silly mistakes (like switching off the main receiver when you’re in man defense instead of zone, or grabbing the receiver when you’ve already got position) and letting FAU walk up and down the field with short passes.

Anyway, I could go on and on . . . I hope things will be better next week, but I've been hoping that for more than two seasons now.


Slappy_icon_medium Kirk Cousins.  I really don't enjoy writing this; I thought that many were overly critical of Cousins' performance in the first game.  But there's little doubt that he was very, very mediocre this Saturday.  Kirk really wasn't accurate on Saturday -- his 9-17 performance can't be chalked up to drops, at least -- and the interception he threw into the endzone was a killer.  I think that Cousins is going to be fine, but the improvement will need to come quickly if we're to win this Saturday.

Slappy_icon_medium The linebacking corps.  Jones, Gordon, and Norman combined for 32 tackles, and that's obviously very impressive on paper, but a big reason why they had so many opportunities to tackle was because they blew their coverage assignments in the first place.  FAU's tight ends, especially Rob Housler, got open time and again.  Our linebackers hardly blitzed at all on Saturday, so there's very little excuse for that lack of coverage.  As Eric Gordon said:

I also think we are going to have to play a little better in space and we have to get off the field on third downs, we had plenty of opportunities. We had a few third and longs and we gave up big plays. Next week we can't give up them plays.

Yes, indeed.  Because if you think FAU's tight ends are good, just wait for Kyle Rudolph.

Slappy_icon_medium Howard Schnellenberger.  Yes, his ridiculous decision to kick the field goal with time winding down in the fourth quarter actually helped MSU.  I don't care.  He gets Slappied for one of the most bizarre and indefensible coaching decisions I've seen in a long time.  Schnellenberger apologized yesterday--and quite rightly--but FAU fans (do they exist?) should be livid about the way that game ended.

As always, please divvy out your own awards in the comments.