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Film Room: Maryland

The MSU running game finally showed up on a day where the defense shut down one of the nation’s best rushing offenses.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Another dominant defensive performance by MSU and they finally get the run game going against Maryland. Let’s go to the tape.

Heyward First TD

This play capped off the Spartans initial drive with a touchdown and came one play after a fourth-and-short QB sneak extended the drive. It was the 10th run of a 12 play drive, and would set the tone for what MSU wanted to do offensively in the game.

Lewerke is under center with an offset-I formation with the fullback to the far side. Cody White is coming through the formation on the jet sweep motion pre-snap. They have already run Nailor once on a similar play earlier in the drive so the defense needs to account for White. The fullback is also going to plow straight ahead, all of it looking like the play is going to the far side.

But the center is going to pull and come to the near side after he snaps it and lead the way for Heyward on the misdirection play.

Here it is stopped right after the handoff. Heyward (green) has a nice path opened up by the blocking and has the center Bueter (yellow) out in front to help lead the way. Maryland has most of their defense moving the other way with the safety (maroon) more or less on his own. Bueter takes care of the safety, Heyward cuts it perfectly, and he’s untouched to the goal line.

It is the type of play that has been MSU’s bread and butter when they have had an effective running game. It works because they had already had success running the ball previously in the drive but it also works because it’s not just plowing straight ahead. It allows the ball carrier to get out into space, read the blocking and cut upfield, and it has been pretty effective for MSU when they have done it.

Lewerke Option Keeper

Here is another running play that is very successful because of it’s deception.

Once again you have a receiver, this time Nailor, coming across in the jet motion. This time Lewerke is in shotgun with Jefferson in the backfield with him. He’s going to fake a toss to Nailor, and then keep it on the option with Jefferson, who is running right, and take off left.

Lewerke does a tremendous job selling this and gets most of the Maryland secondary to bite on the fake to Jefferson.

Here in motion you can see the safety on the far side for Maryland read the fake to Nailor properly, but then crash down on the handoff to Jefferson and essentially take himself out of the play.

The middle linebacker, who was coming right off the snapped but got blocked back out, now has the best shot at making the play on Lewerke. He eventually forces him out inside the 20 yard line after taking a really great angle, otherwise Lewerke is gone on the play.

Again, deception, players going multiple directions, and a great fake and decision by Lewerke make the play happen.


The MSU defense dominated all day, with Maryland barely able to move the ball and the Terps struggled to hold onto the ball when they did move it a little. Here is a play that resulted in a sack that came off a nice blitz.

What I like about this first of all is that it is first down and MSU is bringing pressure. They know Maryland is down two touchdowns and with the way the game has been going, that is starting to feel like a very daunting task.

So the coaches dial up a blitz. They are going to bring Bachie (yellow) and Thompson (orange) from the linebacker spots, with Bachie straight and on Thompson coming behind him across the formation. Thompson is going to end up pressuring off the same side as Willekes (green) who is going to beat his blocker around the corner and force Hill to step up, right into where Thompson is coming.

Willekes gets a hand on him and Thompson comes flying in to help finish the play. It is an aggressive defensive play but it also basically kills any chance Maryland has of extending the drive because of their lack of production in the pass game.

Since the Northwestern game the defense has really played great and one of the reasons is they have been more creative and have been bringing lots of pressure from different places. They have kept opposing offenses off balance.

No team has reached 60% completion against them over the last four games, after doing so four times in the first five games. They have also held three of the four opponents to 6.0 yards per pass attempt or less, something they did only twice in the first five games.

The MSU defense has nine sacks over the last four games and has forced eight turnovers in that same span en route to holding their opponents to 13.5 points per game.