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Breaking down the defense versus Michigan

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Spartans can’t ask anything more from their defense

NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

There isn’t much to debate about this game. Michigan dominated the Spartans from start to finish and won by a final score of 21-7. MSU’s defense played well again, but until the offense proves it can move the ball consistently, the Spartans will struggle to win games.

What went wrong

Wearing down

Honestly, this isn’t totally the defense’s fault. When you’re on the field for nearly three quarters of game time, it’s hard to stay fresh. You could see the Spartans begin to wear down in the fourth quarter, as the defensive line wasn’t getting a huge push and the Wolverines were moving the ball fairly easily. The Spartans have a very good defense, but when the offense can’t move the ball and the defense barely gets to rest, it’s hard to maintain a high level of play. Against Purdue, MSU’s defense will be tested again, and if the offense struggles to move the ball, it could be another loss for the Spartans.

Rushing defense

For the second game in a row, the Spartans’ rush defense didn’t look elite. Some of that had to do with the fact that they were tired, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Michigan’s offensive line was opening holes, and Karan Higdon is an excellent back. No one can deny that. He’s a hard runner that is willing to put his head down and fight for extra yards, and that hurt the MSU defense. In the game, Higdon rushed for 144 yards on 33 carries. He’s one of the best backs in the Big Ten right now, and that rushing attack could carry Michigan to the College Football Playoff.

What worked

Forcing turnovers

The Spartans have been pretty good this year at forcing turnovers, as they’ve forced at least one in every game this season. Fortunately for the Spartan offense, the defense was able to set them up at the 7-yard line for their only score of the game. Even then, it took a trick play for the Spartans to score, which is not great. Even with the Spartans forcing multiple turnovers, it hasn’t led to points, due to poor offense. That needs to change going forward. Fans should expect the Spartans to continue to be great on defense but, as I said before, if the offense doesn’t turn things around, the Spartans will struggle to win games.

Pass defense

The MSU pass defense was very good against Michigan. The Wolverines threw for just 212 yards, with 79 coming on one play. Add in the fact that two tipped passes bounced the Wolverines way, and you can make an argument that the Spartans’ pass coverage was great. Weather played some role in the lack of passing in this game, but credit both defenses for being tough throughout the afternoon. MSU will face another tough test when Rondale Moore and the Boilermakers come to town on Saturday.