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Film Room: Northwestern

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The offense finds some rhythm against the Wildcats, even if it took a little while.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Northwestern Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Things were much better from start to finish for Michigan State this week against Northwestern. The offense got off to a hot start, fell asleep for a bit, but rebounded late in the first half and carried that over to a solid third quarter performance to put the game away. It’s a bit of a delayed and abbreviated film room this week so let’s get to it.

Red Zone

We talked about the issue MSU had finishing drives last week against Arizona State. While they only had two red zone possessions, they were constantly on the ASU side of the field but without getting anything to show for it.

This week was a different story, as the Spartans scored on all five trips to the red zone, converting four of those chances for touchdowns.

The first TD was just a read option play with Lewerke and Collins. MSU spreads it out with three wideouts and Lewerke in shotgun with Collins to his right.

The interesting thing here is Lewerke actually probably makes the wrong read, as it appears that everyone jumps to go for the running back and he might have a clear lane to the endzone had he kept it, although the safety (#7) might not have committed fully yet.

Either way it looks like Collins is stopped short, but he keeps his feet moving and bounces it outside to the open space for the touchdown. The receivers held their blocks long enough to help too.

More of an individual play than great scheme, but sometimes that’s what you need to have, and Collins sure seems to have the makings of a special player that can make those types of plays.

Up next is the touchdown before the half. MSU is in third down from the Northwestern 11-yard line. The Spartans come out in an interesting formation with Heyward in the backfield with Lewerke in shotgun, White is split out to the bottom and Stewart is in a bunch formation to the top with a pair of tight ends.

What Lewerke does great here is to look to the bunch formation on his right side before coming back to White for the touchdown. Even if the intent was always to go to White, he moved the defense with his eyes enough to free him up one-on-one and delivered a perfect ball in a spot where only White was catching it.

He also did so with a NW defender closing in fast. This was the type of play you want your senior QB to make, and it gave MSU a lot of momentum heading into halftime.

Now we have the third TD from the Spartans in the red zone. This was something we used to see a lot of back in the day when MSU was developing a seemingly endless amount of tight ends.

The Spartans have both their top receivers to the bottom of the formation, with Stewart in the slot and White out wide. Collins is in the backfield with Lewerke. It’s only second down, so a run is still a real possibility.

The two tight ends are at the top of the formation, and are just going to run a little combo/rub route to put the two NW defenders into a tough spot.

Because those two are in man coverage, they get hung up with the tight ends make their cuts, freeing up Seybert over the middle.

Lewerke’s play fake to Collins keeps the middle linebacker honest for just long enough that he isn’t able to drop back in time to make a play on the ball.

Lewerke does a great job stepping up in the pocket to avoid pressure, and steps into a perfect throw to Seybert for the touchdown. Really good stuff all around here, both in design and execution.

The final TD for Michigan State also went to Seybert, who got extra playing time with Dotson banged up.

This is another neat little play that really works well. MSU has White and Stewart up top again tight together. Seybert is on the line in a blocking stance while Noah Davis is off the line next to him. Heyward is in the backfield.

Heyward flares out of the backfield while Davis goes out and up. That clears out the center of the field for Seybert, who shucks the defender coming off the edge and slides upfield.

He immediately looks back for the ball and Lewerke drops it to him basically in stride. Seybert is hit at the one, but alertly reaches the ball out to break the plane of the endzone. Touchdown.

What we saw from MSU this week that was different was that once the offense got moving, it kept moving. Now there were some drives in the first half that never got going, and that was where things started to look dicey again.

But that final drive in the first half seemed to be a turning point for Lewerke, who had struggled up to that point with his accuracy. Once again going up tempo got things rolling for the offense, which isn’t exactly a new or shocking development.

What we really need to see now for improvement is continued success from week to week, and not see those long lulls of nothing working during the game.