1) The Offensive Line is Gellin'
At one point in the game yesterday, Donovan Clark was down (briefly) with injury. The first thought that popped into my head was, "oh, no big deal, there's several offensive linemen who can plug that gap."
This is the silver lining to the offensive line injury problems earlier in the year: MSU now has 8 linemen who have significant playing time: Jack Conklin, Brian Allen, Jack Allen, Donovan Clark, Kodi Kieler, Benny McGowan, Brandon Clemons, and David Beedle.
Plus, one week after manhandling an Ohio State in Columbus, MSU's offensive line snapped Penn State's 33-game streak of recording at least one sack. Not bad, eh?
2) #TeamHolmes and #TeamScott Win
This has been true for weeks but it feels like this game cemented the status of Gerald Holmes. Holmes now has five straight weeks of 12+ touches and 60+ rushing/receiving yards. Plus it just seems like he grabs the extra few yards every play that make it 2nd-and-5 instead of 2nd-and-7. It is wild to think that he didn't play at all against Oregon.
Plus L.J. Scott is right behind him. Scott actually leads the team in both carries and rushing yards (118 rushes for 618 yards), but has been a pretty clear #2 to Holmes the past two weeks, coming in late against both Ohio State and Penn State. So long as he can keep hanging onto the ball after the two fumbles against Maryland and a scare against Ohio State, he's a real asset.
3) Connor Cook will be Even Better Next Week
Here's what Cook had to say about resting his shoulder:
Resting it for the entire week against Ohio State there was no zip. I had no strength and there was some pain when I threw. So if I went out there, I would've been useless in the pass game. When I heard it was a two to three week deal, I came back in two weeks, and it felt good out there today. A whole another week of treatment and a little bit of rest should be great.
Cook was limited in practice all week, and had his first real practice since the Maryland game on Thursday. I couldn't tell during the game, and Cook went 19-for-26 with three scores.
That's a big relief, given how much the passing offense suffered in his absence.
4) The Defense is Makin' Plays... and Can Still Improve
Yes, the 77-yard scoop & score by Demetrious Cox, alongside the pick-six by Malik McDowell, were both awesome plays. The defense really clamped down in the red zone. The secondary does appear much improved since Darian Hicks' newfound health forced a realignment (and Arjen Colquhoun has grown tremendously).
But Penn State still managed some big plays, including a 59 yard pass in the third quarter and a 22 yard rush on a PSU 3rd-and-23. There's still some work to do.
5) The Window is Wide Open
After an offseason of enduring tired columns (Oh Rolling Stone, Oh ESPN) about how Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State would close the window of opportunity for Michigan State, MSU went out and beat all three traditional powers in the Big Ten East. MSU did so despite a special teams unit in shambles in Ann Arbor. The Spartans did so without Connor Cook in Columbus. MSU ran a non-goalline offensive lineman running play for a touchdown against Penn State.
Which teams should be worried about their windows, exactly?