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Film Room: Utah State

Despite the game being closer than expected, there was a lot of good to take away from MSU’s opening win.

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

L.J. Scott Screen Pass

The first play we are going to look at is the one that set up Michigan State’s first touchdown of the season. It was a screen pass to L.J. Scott, something I expect to see used more and more this season. In fact this was the second pass to Scott of the game already, just early in the second quarter.

So it’s first down in Utah State territory. Scott (circled) is the lone back in the backfield. MSU has three WR’s (two top, one bottom) and one tight end off the line on Lewerke’s left. Davis is going to go out and block the linebacker while the TE and two WR’s run routes. Scott is going to slip out of the backfield to the near side.

The three O-linemen (yellow) are going to release and come out to block for Scott, who is about to catch the ball here. The linemen got a little bit of a late release, so Scott is going to have to wait to wait for his blocking to develop, or he’s going to out run it and the play will go for minimal yards.

Scott (Green) stops, looks and let’s his blockers catch up, and it’s a wise decision. As you can see, there are four MSU players (yellow) and just two Utah State defenders (red). Scott sees that the crease should open up if he just waits for the blocking to seal off the defenders on the outside.

The path opens up for Scott, and he’s got two guys out front to lead the way. He stays behind his blocking and follows it all the way down inside the ten yard line. That would set up Lewerke finding Cody White on third down for the first TD of the season.

For all the talk about Scott being a disappointment in the running game, it should be noted that he caught three passes for 57 yards, and had finished with 141 yards on 26 touches for an average of 5.4 yards per touch. That’s a pretty productive game, even if he didn’t get in the end zone or break 100 yards rushing.

Connor Heyward TD

This was Heyward’s first rushing touchdown that came in the third quarter to put MSU ahead 27-14 in what appeared to be the moment MSU would start to pull ahead for good. It was second-and-six from the Utah State 17-yard line.

Heyward is the lone back deep behind Lewerke who is under center. MSU moved the tight end in motion to the near side. Both MSU WR’s are to the near side, with Davis off the screen on the bottom.

Utah State has seven guys bunched tight both near the line of scrimmage and in a tight group across as well.

The seven defenders in the bunch are neutralized pretty quickly by the MSU line, and the safety (red) also crept up on the snap on the side away from where the run is going. Heyward already has a huge running lane for himself as the ball is handed to him and correctly bounces towards that hole.

This clip shows the initial blocking and Heyward bouncing it out to the running lane. What you also notice at the very end of it is the other Utah State safety crashing down hard to try and fill that lane. Heyward sees him coming as the lone unaccounted for defenders and makes a quick cut.

That move by Heyward causes the safety to crash into his own teammate, taking them both out of the play and giving Heyward a clear path to daylight. At the bottom Felton Davis (blue) is sealing off his man, meaning the only chance at Heyward is to chase him down from behind. And the big boy was not going to be dragged down from behind.

Heyward showed off his vision, speed and strength all in the same play, something I expect us to see plenty more of throughout the season. It should also be pointed out that both of the plays we have looked at so far featured important blocks from Felton Davis, who is getting it done in all facets of the game.

Lewerke to Davis

So lets give Felton Davis some love too, although this play really was both Lewerke and Davis making it happen with some great individual effort that added up to a big gain.

It’s second-and-seven from just on MSU’s side of midfield. Spartans come out shotgun with Scott in the backfield and three WR’s and one TE. Utah State has three down linemen and brings the LB on the far side to rush while the near side LB drops into coverage. LJ Scott stays in the backfield to pick up the LB coming on the blitz.

Davis (top yellow) is being defended well off the line by a single defensive back. He gives the defender a little in move and then cuts back out and blows past him.

Lewerke initially looks to his right and pumps, maybe going through his actual progression, or maybe just trying to look off the defender covering Davis. It works though as it looks like the defender covering Davis bites enough to allow Felton to get by him.

Meanwhile, Scott picks up the LB enough to slow him down but it forces Lewerke to spin out of the pocket away from the pressure. The real impressive part is what came next.

Lewerke spins out but instead of trying to throw on the run, he squares himself up, gets his feet set and delivers a near perfect ball to Davis down the sideline, who makes a great catch stretching out on his way to the ground. The whole sequence is really impressive by Lewerke and shows how far he’s come in the last year.

Bachie for the Win

This is a bonus because honestly it just needs to be viewed on repeat to appreciate it. Bachie busts through the line, uses the RB as a springboard, swats the ball, and then catches it as he goes to the ground. I mean, it’s just beautiful and it’s the type of play you expect from your best player with the game on the line.

Bachie, and the Spartans, hang on to win. On to the next one out in the desert.