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Breaking down the defense versus Indiana

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Michigan State’s defense is improving but still has things to work on

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State needed a win to bounce back from a loss at Arizona State, and thats exactly what they did by beating Indiana, 35-21. The defense played well up front but still has areas to improve going forward.

What went wrong

Covering screens/running backs

Indiana had a solid gameplan to move the ball against Michigan State. The Spartans have struggled to cover running backs and short passes so far this year, and Indiana took advantage of that. Hoosiers quarterback Peyton Ramsey threw for 272 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, but he only averaged 5.9 yards per pass. MSU did give up a 65-yard touchdown pass, but even that was a 15-yard pass that went for 65 yards. MSU was very solid defensively in this game, but covering short, quick passes are still somewhat of a problem for the Spartans.

Conditioning

As mentioned before, MSU played well defensively in this game. However, the Spartans still have some conditioning issues. I understand that they had a few possessions where they didn’t get much rest in between, and that was a factor, but MSU wears down very quickly against teams that are up-tempo. You could see it against Utah State, and you could see it against the Hoosiers. I don’t think it’s a major problem, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

What worked

Pass rush

The Spartans’ pass rush was outstanding in this game. MSU came away with five sacks and put pressure on Ramsey all game long. Andrew Dowell had two and Raequan Williams, Kenny Willekes and Brandon Bouyer-Randle each had one. The Spartans put pressure on Arizona State and Utah State but didn’t come away with many sacks. Against the Hoosiers, MSU was able to come away with sacks instead of quarterback hurries. MSU’s pass rushers need to build on this performance as the heart of Big Ten play is right around the corner.

Third down defense

The Spartans looked like the top defense many experts expected them to be, and their play on third down was a thing of beauty. The Hoosiers were 4-for-16 on third down, and that is a major improvement for a team that allowed Utah State to go 7-for-13. The Spartans’ defense has looked much better over the last few weeks, and they are a big key to MSU’s success this season.