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Film Room: Ohio State

The defense continues to shine, and Kenny Willekes is on his way to being an all-time great at MSU.

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

This is becoming an increasingly more difficult piece to do on a weekly basis when you have games where nothing really happens for 90% of it. The pattern seems to pretty clear at this point. Michigan State’s defense shuts teams down, and the offense struggles.

Post Penn State, so the start of the MSU quarterback controversy, the offense has had one game where the passing game has been anywhere close to decent, and that was the Purdue game.

The rushing attack has the same problem, with one decent game over that stretch, which was the Maryland win.

Other than that, the offense has pretty much been atrocious for MSU over the last four games.

Meanwhile over that same stretch the defense has held four teams that came in average 30+ points a game to a TOTAL of 63 points in four games, or an average of 15.75 points per game. And really it is better than that. Take out the nine points that MSU gave up on offense and special teams against Ohio State and it’s 54 points in four games, or 13.5 points per game. That’s right, MSU’s defense has held their last four opponents to an average of less than two TD’s per game and MSU is 2-2 in that stretch.

So let’s start with the defense shall we?


The Spartans had a decent day pressuring the quarterback, but were only able to cash in two sacks. Here they are.

The first one came late in the first quarter, with OSU facing third-and-10 from their own 26 yard line. MSU is going to bring Justin Layne (yellow) on a corner blitz, while dropping the two LB’ers back into coverage just as the ball is about to be snapped. The safety on Layne’s side (red) is going to step up and cover the wideout, while everyone else is in zone.

Layne comes in unblocked as the running back comes to the near side to help on Bouyer-Randle. Naquan Jones also beats his man to arrive at the same time as Layne, leaving Haskins nowhere to go.

Honestly, if Jones hadn’t gotten there and Layne came in unblocked from the back side it’s entirely possible that you could have seen a fumble. He had no idea Layne was coming. Another good job of bringing pressure from different spots by MSU.

The second sack is more straight forward. Kenny Willekes is a beast and cannot be stopped.

Why Ohio State thought they could block Willekes with the guard on the far side pulling across after the snap is beyond me. He is way too fast for that, and even before this he had been getting into the backfield with some regularity.

Willekes finished the game with 13 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a quarterback hit, and a pass breakup. Not a bad day’s work.

Willekes now as 17 tackles for loss, already surpassing last season’s total of 14.5 with two more regular season games plus a bowl game. He is currently tied with the late Mike Labinjo for the sixth most TFL in a single season in school history. He needs only two more to move into second by himself on that list. Julian Peterson’s school record of 30 remains untouchable.

At 31.5 tackles for loss, Willekes is already alone in 12th place on the MSU career list. Two more would put him into the top ten. If he plays another season at MSU and keeps up this pace he will easily become MSU’s career leader.

Oh by the way Willekes also has surpassed last season’s sack total as well as he is up to 8.5 now. At his current pace and another full season he would end up second or third on the MSU all-time sack list.

It’s time to start appreciating Kenny Willekes for being one of the best edge rushers MSU has had.

Rocky’s Run

This play helped get MSU’s second scoring drive going, and made it look like the Spartans might actually have a chance after switching to Rocky Lombardi.

It’s third-and-two and getting anything has been tough for MSU at this point. The Spartans send Chambers (green) in jet motion across the formation, he is followed by the corner, emptying out that side of the field. Everything seems to indicate the play going to the far side.

The two guards (red) are going to pull to the near side off the snap and lead the way for Lombardi, who fakes the handoff to Chambers on the jet sweep and keeps it himself.

The left guard seals off the edge to open the hole for Lombardi, who follows his blocking perfectly and he’s off to the races.

As he gets downfield Rocky actually slows up to try and get Jordan Reid out in front of himself to block the safety. As a result it allows the OSU defender to catch him from behind as he tries to cut back across the block. It probably didn’t make a big difference in the play’s end result as he likely wouldn’t have beaten the safety anyway, and it shows good patience by Lombardi.

Rocky has shown capable running skills when he has been out there. He may not be as fast as Lewerke, but he isn’t slow and he runs with confidence and he’s probably built a little better to withstand the punishment.

Everything that happened from this point on was pretty stupid so there really isn’t much point of going back through it.

Next up is Nebraska, hopefully MSU can figure out a plan on offense that doesn’t involve doing the Curly Shuffle at quarterback by then.