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Recap: It gets worse

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

I just..... man.

Ever since last year's Central Michigan game, this offense has regressed so much. There's just so much wrong with it. It falls on everyone. Line still struggling to block, receivers can't get open nor catch, the quarterbacks can't throw and refuse to throw downfield, and the gameplan is still confusing. The worst passing performance in the Dantonio era, as Heck backed up with numbers.

Jeremy Langford had 94 yards on 20 carries, though, so that was nice to see.

The whole purpose of the offensive staff shuffling and quarterback and position battles were to avoid a repeat of 2012. One game in, and things have gotten even worse — markedly.

There are a few things to feel OK about. The running game wasn't terrible, even if it was against a MAC team. There weren't any interceptions. And MSU won. Seriously, at least they won. Did you see Kansas State, Oregon State, South Florida, Iowa, Iowa State, San Diego State, etc? It can always be worse. Also, the defense is again one of the best in the nation. Make sue you appreciate that.

The schedule still allows MSU to figure things out. I have to imagine MSU kept the playbook fairly vanilla. SpartanBDF commented after the game asking where all the creativity from the spring game went. It has to still be there. We saw some of it with Connor Cook running draws, read options and straight options. But at this point, show your hand if it means the offense getting some semblance of confidence.

Speaking of options, they all have to be on the table. I imagine Maxwell starts next week, but I do think Tyler O'Connor gets a look. Just my guess, but I'm figuring Maxwell and Cook were always going to be the only two available against WMU. You have to give quarterbacks a chance to get in rhythm, though neither of them did. Don't think we see Terry yet, but we may have to.

I really think MSU needs to hurry things up more. The only offensive touchdown came in a two-minute drive. Just like last year, MSU more often got in a rhythm when they weren't huddling and just stuck to reacting, rather than slowing it down and thinking. I know hurrying-up to a three-and-out doesn't help your defense, but they're going three-and-out anyway. More pressure needs to be put on opposing defenses, whether that's stretching the field, hurrying up or both.

MSU had three games to get things fine-tuned heading to Notre Dame. One games is in the books, and things are more terrible than we could have imagined.

Looking back at my three keys for each team.

For MSU:

Turnovers: Just one, on a run by Jeremy Langford when he should have been holding the ball tighter. As bad as the quarterbacks were, at least they threw it to nobody rather than the opponent, though Cook should have had one picked off in the end zone. Iowa lost to Northern Illinois because of a late INT. Could have been costly for MSU.

Fast start for the offense: Uh, no. Not a fast start, not a fast finish, and they weren't fast in the middle. Fans were upset after just a few drives, and the student section chanted for Damion Terry. Things never got better.

Defense does what it does: They did what they do. Three interceptions, 11 pass break-ups, nine tackles for loss, five sacks, eight QB hurries, one forced fumble and two touchdowns. Thx.

For WMU:

Turnovers: Felt like MSU should have even had more interceptions.

Win up front: Had four QB hurries, four TFLs and one sack. Did alright against what was supposed to be an improved MSU line.

Early lead: They stuck around and tied the game shortly after the rain delay. If they had gotten into halftime tied, who knows how the rest of the game plays out.

Now, thoughts on MSU on all sides of the ball.


Hit most of it above, but some position thoughts.

Quarterback: The worst yards per attempt in the Mark Dantonio era. Maxwell continued to stick with short passes. A few times early where they threw short of the first down marker on third down. Connor Cook seemed to provide a little spark, based on the eye test, but his passing numbers were even worse. I've said it a million times, if the pieces around the quarterback don't work, it can't be Maxwell. The pieces aren't working. Cook's running ability (35 yards on 4 carries) provided something at least. O'Connor and Terry also can run. MSU needs a quarterback who can create if the receivers don't do anything and the line struggles. The blame doesn't all go on Maxwell, because he's basically been surrounded by nothing, but he's limited.

Running back: Again, Langford looked alright. There weren't many holes there, but he had some good rushes. He had 20 of the team's 42 "carries." I was surprised Riley Bullough didn't go in for that goal-line situation, but it worked out. Nick Hill (33 yards on 7 carries) has some nice runs, but I don't see MSU increasing his load. Bullough (12 yards on 5 carries showed some power, but don't run a jet sweep with him again. I didn't expect the running game to be better than the passing game, but here we are. I thought MSU needed to run more when the QBs were dying out there.

Wide receivers: They all continue to stink. Somewhere between five and seven drops. So that hasn't been fixed. Aaron Burbridge (4 catches, 16 yards) had a bad drop and is only targeted for short passes. Keith Mumphrey (4 catches, 24 yards) dropped a touchdown. Bennie Fowler (3 catches, 34 yards) had 2.5 drops (one was a really tough catch). Macgarrett Kings (1, 14) ran the wrong route a few notable times. DeAnthony Arnett had one catch for even yards, while Tony Lippett didn't have a catch. Oh, and the receivers still can't block. No point doing end-arounds, if the receivers aren't pushing anyone back. No one looks any better, and seam routes or something 10+ yards down the middle of the field are still nonexistent.

Offensive line: To be fair, they were all shuffled around with Jack Conklin at right tackle, Donovan Clark at left tackle and Dan France, but they're also playing a MAC defense. Fou Fonoti did come in and play, so that's encouraging. Jack Allen has turf toe. Hard to know when he comes back, but that's an injury that lingers for a while. MSU's pass protection wasn't great, while the run blocking was alright. Still, this is supposed to be MSU's best offensive line.


In fall camp, Pat Narduzzi told BTN that pass break-ups weren't good enough. They needed to make it an interception and take it to the house. They got three interceptions, two defensive touchdowns and two of the top three plays on Sportscenter.

Very quickly, WMU's gameplan became just chuck it deep and hope to get a catch or pass interference. Their one deep completion led to a touchdown. Might as well try.

The defensive line got OK pressure alone, but the blitzes were getting through all night. Again, the competition matters, but Denicos Allen looked like the 2011 version, consistently getting in the backfield. Darqueze Dennard was beat a few times, but again, there were a lot of deep chucks his way. Kurtis Drummond looks really good, despite cutting the dreadlocks. Jarius Jones as a hybrid linebacker looked great with two interceptions, one lateral and a thought about a second.

Any play that wasn't a tackle for loss or a turnover felt like a disappointment. MSU again has a national-championship caliber defense. Will it be wasted again?

Special teams

Kevin Muma made two short field goals, so all good there. Mike Sadler's Heisman campaign began with 11 punts, an average of 38.5 yards and six of those punts being downed inside the 25-yard line. He dealt with some bad weather and some bad snaps. Taybor Pepper has a couple bad snaps to Sadler on punts and one that led to a botched extra point, but he got better as the game went on and had been fine last year.

On returns, Andre Sims Jr. had five punt returns for 52 yards, including a long of 33. Part of that was due to some booming punts and outkicking the coverage, but the blocking on the punt return team seemed much better than a year ago, when even a single return felt like a lot. Nick Hill has two kickoff returns for 44 yards.


Nowhere to go but up? For real this time? Next up is South Florida, which just lost 53-21 to FCS McNeese State in one of the worst FBS losses to an FCS team in history. If the offense can't figure out something against the Bulls, then these problems really are catastrophic.

Nebraska gave up 600 yards to Wyoming, Minnesota was outgained by 100 yards by UNLV, Iowa lost to Northern Illinois at home and Northwestern had all sorts of problems with Cal. Everything sets up well for MSU. The schedule is navigable, the division stinks and the defense is among the nation's best. Will they fall apart again? After Friday, people should be very worried.