|(Photo: Kevin W. Fowler | for the Lansing State Journal)|
Disclaimer: I watched the first half of the MSU vs JSU game
Offense: Lots of 12 personnel, single back Power O with Inside Zone constraint
Defense: 4-3 Over, Double A gap blitz heavy early. 3-3-5 Nickel
Cook picked up where he left off last year. He was on target perfectly on a fade route and got the ball off with great timing on a 3rd and short spacing concept to the hitch route (the Bench receiver was late on his route, but by that time Cook had made his reads appropriately). Cook continues to look more and more consistent with his mechanics, but taking much more from this game is difficult. The important thing was that the throws he had to put in a window on time, he did.
I thought Langford, for the most part, did what he could with the blocking provided to him. However, the OGs in this game simply underperformed. They often got caught up in the wash when trying to pull, they got stalemated too often when down blocking, double-teaming, or zone blocking, and in general looked hesitant in the hole when they arrived to clean someone out. I thought most of the issues with the run game, and the reason why Langford seemed to bounce quite a bit outside, was because the OGs didn't adequately perform their job. That'll need to be cleaned up, and may have been made even harder by recent injuries.
The defensive ends continue to look like one of the better units in the B1G. Calhoun flashed a great inside swim move to force the second MSU INT of the game. They were disruptive on the edge, both in the pass and the run game, which, when facing a mobile QB that gets the ball off fairly quickly, is impressive. I thought the DTs looked quite a bit like last year, not great, but kept the LBs clean. I still think they lack some of the technique and explosiveness to be great penetraters in the run or pass game. But if they can keep LBs clean, then they can do their job well enough for the defense to be good.
The LBs were aggressive and hit well. It seemed to me that Narduzzi called more blitzes than he typically does on early downs, favoring the double A gap blitz he has become known for. Clearly, MSU was very comfortable with their ends in run support and thought that the could run blitz the interior and pressure the QB simultaneously to make things difficult. What does this actually mean for the LBs though? It's hard to say in one game. It could be a gameplan thing, or it could be that Narduzzi wanted to slim down some of the early down reads so that the LBs played a little faster rather than having to make reads. We'll find out more next week.
Let me start by saying that I thought JSU had a very good gameplan going into the game on offense. They didn't put up the points in the first half, but they called plays that exploit some of the weaknesses of the coverage and had plenty of opportunities to move the ball. I think the communication, both verbal and mostly non-verbal, needs to be better from the LB to DB level right now. In my mind, inside routes weren't being effectively rerouted, and the timing of passing off receivers seemed off as players were too easily able to get past the safety or LBs in coverage. This meant that JSU had some opportunities, especially in the middle of the field. I talked recently about the difficulty of playing safety in a cover 4 scheme , but the job can be made easier in some ways by how the OLBs play the slot receivers. I think there was still some wrinkles that need to be ironed out in this facet of the defense.
What does this mean for Oregon next week? I honestly think it only helps MSU. Oregon was going to attack these same things regardless of what JSU did. It's better for MSU having it on tape and having it serve as coachable moments so that they can improve on it (while still winning the game handily). It's much better, in this case, to have that bit exposed a little early so you can clean it up by the time you go into the more competitive game. And it isn't one of those things that is a wrinkle that Oregon wouldn't have tried to exploit. If someone is going to expose the weakness first, you'd rather it not be Oregon. So I think this will really help MSU get better on the backend, even if it's only with a week of practice.
I only say this because MSU was great at kicking last year, but this was kind of a rough outing for those guys. Kickers are weird animals. I expect Sadler to bounce back and wouldn't expect much different from Geiger.