Coaching Points: Oregon vs MSU, 2015

Raj Mehta USA TODAY Sports
Offense: Lots of personnel groups, but mostly between 11 personnel, 12 personnel, and 21 personnel. More zone blocking than against WMU which worked really well.
Defense: Same old same. More MEG in this game compared to the MOD to the field they did against WMU.

Shorter and later this week. Sorry, been really busy lately. Feel free to ask questions though if you have them in the comments below.

Previous Games


  • Cook is Cook at this point, more good than bad, but everything from amazing to WTF.
  • RBs look good, most of success came off of zone schemes in this one
  • Really like Burbridge's routes.
  • Heath struggled on first drive, not again after that. Rest of DL changed outcome of the game in biggest way, IMO.
  • Bullough got off blocks and snuffed out a lot of key plays.
  • CBs and Harris need to take on blocks better to hold down short, outside routes and screens.

I really don't know what to say about Cook that hasn't already been said. He durfs a short drag route because he doesn't reset his feet and comes back and throws a perfect strike on the right sideline. He overthrows the ball on an INT after almost throwing an INT on the play before, then throws a dart a little while later. He is patient as a DE zone drops underneath a slant and waits for Burbridge to come open on a TD; the next time he moves off that read and onto the comeback on the other side; the third time he throws it right at the defender zone dropping for a near pick 6.

He's an enigma. He's all over the place. He has a high ceiling and a low floor, but trends toward his ceiling. I thought overall his play was good, but it's crazy how he botches easy throws every once in a while. I get trying to force the ball, that's in his nature, and it's what allows him to make some of the truly impressive throws he does, but the easy throws that he misses are really weird.

I still think he's better throwing left than right, particularly to the sideline. He looks more comfortable throwing in that direction as well. Still would like to see MSU attack the center of the field more and involve the TEs more, we'll see if that develops as the season progresses. But at this point in his college career, I think he just is who he is. He's going to make passes that make your jaw drop, he'll do it multiple times a game, sometimes it'll be because it is so, so bad and inexplicable, more times it'll be because it was amazing.

Running Backs
Both looked good again. I thought there were a few times where guys missed some lanes, particularly on the gap/man schemes like Power. But the blocking was such that, at least once, where London didn't read his pulling block correctly (you want to run off the OG's butt, and the OG had sealed the defender inside; London still went inside) and still picked up 6 yards. That's how dominant the OL was most of the night.

Scott looks good. A lot of the same comments as last game. Has great balance and just doesn't want to go down. He knows how to take contact and keep going. I don't think we saw a lot new from these two, just confirmation of what we saw against WMU.

Wide Receiver
I'm ready to say Burbridge is picking up where Lippett left off. In fact, the resemblance is uncanny. Neither necessarily had great speed to consistently take the top off the defense, but both can at times because of their route running. A few years ago, people were calling for Samuel's head; now he has once again proven that, given the time, he can coach his guys up. The most impressive route was a simple stop route that Burbridge had for a first down where the CB just blew right past him by almost 5 yards. It was so smooth and effortless, and there was such little in the route that gave it away that he wasn't running the seam. And because of that, he was able to turn, present himself to Cook, and it was an easy first down conversion.

Kings has also shown an ability to run really good routes and display solid hands. I still think he loses focus too often though. There are just some things he doesn't do that are smart. He ran a few routes intended to go beyond the sticks short of them, he adjusted incorrectly a couple times as well (I don't believe the INT was one of those times, however). He has a ton of talent, I'd just like him to clean up some of the mistakes he makes.

Tight Ends
Won't add a whole lot. Price looked really good, as he runs really clean routes to allow himself separation. Lyles saw a little action but nothing really his way again. All the TEs seemed to block well for the most part.

Offensive Line
Struggled a little more with some of the gap/man schemes, as I think Oregon was keying that. But where they dominated was some zone runs, particularly to the left side of the LOS. The announcers pointed out a couple times when MSU got to the 2nd level without anyone to block, both of those were on zone runs where it appears Oregon was keying the down blocks it seemed and got caught peaking when MSU successfully executed their combo blocks. This resulted in a number of the Spartan's longer runs, which was nice play calling and execution by the OL.

It's no surprise that MSU was a bit better (or consistent) running left than right, but they were able to go both ways. When Kieler went out, I thought MSU looked a bit better when McGowan slid into play RG and Clark slid out to RT. I really liked what I saw from Clark at RT in the spring, and I really don't think MSU will miss all too much if that's the starting lineup going forward.

Defensive Line
Go rewatch the first Oregon drive of the game, when they marched down the field and scored a TD. Watch Heath get destroyed multiple times on that drive. After the first drive, I thought Oregon had a crack in MSU's front that they could exploit to successfully attack inside and out. But then watch the rest of the game. McDowell is getting a ton of buzz for his performance (rightfully so), but Heath turned his whole game around. He went from being dominated to dominating.

McDowell, as I said, is getting a lot of buzz. The combination of size and speed was always a good sign for him, but the technique has come along nicely as well. What's impressive is that even when his technique breaks down in one area (such as getting too high, which is difficult for him because he's so tall), his technique and ability in other areas help mitigate that. The 4th and goal stop that people are showing off, where he got serious push in the backfield, he was stood up on. That's insane. He was stood up, but was able to get his hands inside the blockers hands and just absolutely control him, on the goal line. Truly impressive.

I think the backup DTs still have some work to do. Evans had a rough few plays later in the game. But the starters are stout. The DEs are also good. Calhoun was able to get pressure consistently, and with the focus on McDowell and Cahoun, the other DEs were able to get in the mix as well. MSU consistently ran 3 and 4 man pressures, and Oregon's QB was clearly feeling the pressure. I thought that was the biggest impact on the game. The Spartans could impact Adams eyes and feet based on 3 and 4 man pass rushes. His mechanics would break down, he would fall off of receivers (sometimes breaking open), but he couldn't find any of them. That's a credit to the DL, 100%.

Bullough did Bullough-like things. His goal line stop, where it looked like Oregon had a walk in TD, was truly impressive. He's getting dispatched, driven by an OL, and he just sinks, gets underneath the blocker, discards him, and makes a tackle that ends up saving 7 points. He was around the ball all night, got off blocks well, and made plays. This is more of what I expected of him after the spring.

I think the other LBs still have to play in space a bit better. Yes, there was some holding, but what makes calling holding difficult is when a defender is getting pushed off the ball. This happened both to Harris and to the CBs on a lot of the screens. If you are getting pushed backwards, it's very difficult from the field for refs to see holding. You have to hold your position better. That comes from your technique and mental understanding of taking on blocks and getting through them. MSU needs to do better at that in space. Pop blockers, discard them, use your hands, get low, shed, and make plays. That was a major reason Oregon was able to gain so many yards underneath.

It seemed like MSU played more MEG again in this game, and the CBs coped well. Copeland I thought actually played a better game against the pass in this one, though struggled a little more against the run/screen. Both CBs, more Copeland than Cox, got shoved around a bit by blocks. Have to be stronger taking those on. But Copeland looked better in his MEG coverage than last week, though MSU still isn't jamming as much, the press technique is looking better.

There are still small things for Copeland to clean up; he turned the wrong direction on a fade in one instance where he was able to recover because it was an underthrown ball, but it's the small things now, rather than major breakdowns. Will be interested in seeing if teams try to attack with digs and slants more often though to test the fact that MSU isn't jamming as much.

The backup CBs are a worry though. The last Oregon drive, the CB got beat then fell, not the other way around. They got picked on when they came in the game. So there are still some depth concerns.

Nicholson's INT was a key example of why you never give up on a play. Nicholson was beat, plain and simple. The slot got clean separation and Nicholson was fighting to get back into trail technique. But he didn't panic. He played his trail technique and showed off his athletic ability and did exactly what he's taught to do as far as reacting to the receiver with the ball in the air. And when the pass was something other than perfect, he had put himself in a position to make a play on the ball and come away with the turnover. It was a truly impressive play.

I still need to see him take better angles to the football, particularly on the short passes. He got picked on when Oregon went PA to suck up the LB and then to the flat quickly, and he took some bad angles then compounded matters by not wrapping up. Needs to do better there.

Williamson had a good game too. His INT was a terrible decision by the QB because Williamson was playing his position exactly like he was taught. He was sitting on that throw and then made a play on the ball.

Special teams... yeah. We may need to focus on that a bit more another time.


  1. Glad to see you're still alive SC! Will the U-M coaching point be out soon?

    1. I had intended to, but I've been really busy this week, and I think most of what I was going to talk about has been said elsewhere. So probably not this week, sorry.


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