Finally we have a game where there is stuff to look at on both sides of the ball. Through the first few weeks of the season the defense was (for the most part) dominant and the offense was the focal point of the post-game discussion. This week, we have both positive offensive things to look at, and some defensive mishaps to address. Let’s get to it.
Matt Seybert has become a big piece of the MSU offense the last few weeks. The former walk-on tight end has come out of nowhere to make big play after big play for the Spartans. He has nine catches for 121 yards and three touchdowns in the last three games. Tight end play is important for MSU, and Seybert has stepped it up.
This is first possession for MSU and another big play for Seybert. It is also a great play design.
MSU has two tight ends on the far side of the formation. Dotson is off the line of scrimmage while Seybert (orange circle) is on the line. Collins is with Lewerke in the backfield. MSU actually has two receivers to the near side but you can’t see the one out wide.
Dotson is going to drag across the middle of the field while Collins flares out to the near side but then stays to block. Stewart in the slot works up field while Lewerke bootlegs to his left.
Seybert, initially stays to block, and then releases into the right flat but not after giving a little chip to the linebacker coming around the end on the blitz. The near side linebacker is blocked by Collins.
The result is a wide open Seybert with lots of room in front of him. Now whether this was the intent of the play all along, or if it was a down the line progression, it works perfectly. The Indiana defense all comes to the near side of the field as Lewerke leads everyone there with his legs and eyes. Seybert flares out into the open area and Lewerke comes back to him with a good throw and he is off to the races.
You also gotta love Seybert not going down on the first tackle attempt and then lowering his shoulder into the defender instead of going out of bounds. He has brought some big energy to the offense.
That wasn’t the only big play for Seybert, because he also found the end zone for the second week in a row.
Spartans are first-and-goal from the ten. Once again they have the two tight ends to the same side, this time the near side. As before, Dotson is off the line and Seybert (orange) is on the line. White and Stewart are out wide up top and Lewerke is in the pistol with Collins.
Dotson is going to flare out and up, while Seybert runs a stop and go. He gets the defender to completely bite on the initial move and Lewerke has him all the way for the touchdown.
The increased use of the tight ends the last few weeks, especially in the red zone, has really been a big boost to the offense. While it has been far from perfect, the red zone offense has been much better this year.
The last four weeks MSU has converted touchdowns on 13 of 18 red zone trips for touchdowns. That is a 72.2% touchdown rate, which is the same as Clemson’s season red zone TD rate. Tight ends now have four receiving touchdowns, after having three total touchdowns combined over the previous two seasons.
Stop Rushing Three
Michigan State’s defense is at it’s best when it is attacking and putting pressure on opposing team’s to make plays to beat them. This especially includes getting pressure on the quarterback in big spots.
We saw what happened against Arizona State late in the game, and this was another lesson in what not to do.
Not only does MSU only rush three here, they actually only rush two. Raequan Williams actually drops back to spy the quarterback, so I guess they kind of learned a lesson there. However, what this does is basically give Penix as much time as he needs to survey and make the throw.
In addition to this, there was obviously a mix up in the secondary. You can see Xavier Henderson at the bottom right corner, he is going to drop back, along with almost everyone else, at the snap. The problem is that he ends up in the middle of the field, and Josiah Scott is left alone on the near side.
Obviously there was some confusion between the secondary. Scott is trying to catch up here, which means he let the receiver go by, expecting safety help. Henderson appears to have gone to cover the player that is in the middle of the endzone before breaking down towards Philyor with the ball in the air.
Something else worth noting, you see a lot of MSU defenders in the short to mid-range in the middle of the field who aren’t really covering anyone. That seems to indicate a zone, which would explain Scott thinking he had help over the top.
Either way this is not MSU playing to their strengths, and it continues to burn them for big plays on third or fourth and long.
Lewerke’s Still Got Legs
With the game tied late, MSU gets the ball back and Lewerke hits Stewart for a huge gain with a great throw on the move and an even better play by Stewart to go up and get it.
They follow that play up with Lewerke running a keeper on what looked like a possible read option to Stewart on the jet motion.
The left guard pulls across the formation to help clear the way for Lewerke. The TE on the outside blocks the linebacker on the edge, while the jet motion and fake to Stewart cause the safety on that side to hesitate long enough to open the path for Lewerke.
As he has shown in the past, Lewerke is really good at following his blocking and finding a running lane. After the initial burst up field he cuts back and gets back and gets another block from Cody White.
Afte he gets into the open field he checks around him to so see where the defenders are. It’s possible this kept him from getting to the end zone but it all worked out well for MSU in the end.
That’s it for this week. Next up is Ohio State, and well it’s not going to be easy considering the Buckeyes have been crushing teams in the early going.
That said, the MSU offense seems to be coming together, and Lewerke is playing with a lot of confidence. Both of these are big for the Spartans moving forward.