QBs struggle, defense shines in MSU win

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
12:47
AM ET
Michigan State entered Friday night's game with a solid defense and question marks at quarterback.

Well, after a 26-13 win over Western Michigan, the Spartans sure didn't do much to change that perception.

Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook struggled to the tune of 17-of-37 passing and couldn't finish drives. Michigan State punted seven consecutive times. The quarterbacks led MSU to exactly one touchdown drive. Even the run game couldn't manage four yards a carry in the first half.

Luckily for the Spartans, their defense was just as good as advertised. Better, even. Kurtis Drummond made an incredible, one-handed interception that is destined for end-of-the-year highlight reels. And Jairus Jones came down with two picks, including one he lateraled to Drummond for Sparty's first touchdown.

Oh, and let's not forget the late-game Shilique Calhoun fumble return for a TD. The Spartans' defense actually outscored their own offense. This defense showed that it could still be one of the best groups in the nation. Outside of Western Michigan's second-quarter scoring drive, the Broncos' offense just couldn't get anything started.

But, on the flip side, neither could Michigan State.

Mark Dantonio tried to flip his two quarterbacks around in hopes of igniting the sputtering unit. But no matter who was under center, the result was the same: Punt, punt, punt. Each signal-caller made his fair share of bad throws, but the wideouts didn't exactly help them out either. Nothing did -- from the play-calling to the decision-making.

On Maxwell's first four drives, three ended when he threw short of the marker on third down. Third-and-3? Two-yard pass. Third-and-5? Three-yard pass. Third-and-8? Two-yard pass. (Oh, and on that other drive? Maxwell ran seven yards on a 3rd-and-10 play.)

Michigan State endured nearly an hourlong weather delay, but the game was going south well before the break. Put simply, MSU might have won -- but it also now holds more question marks on offense than it did before the opener.

The defense is great, and the offense is not. The big question now remains whether this team can still have a great season as a result.

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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