Saturday, December 3, 2011
Halftime: Michigan State 29, Wisconsin 21
By Brian Bennett
INDIANAPOLIS -- Quick halftime analysis from a wildly entertaining first 30 minutes at the inaugural Big Ten championship game:
Turning point: On the first play of the second quarter, Michigan State went for it on fourth down and 1 from the Wisconsin 30. Quarterback Kirk Cousins faked a pitch and rolled out, finding a wide-open B.J. Cunningham for a touchdown to make it 21-14. That was the start of 22 consecutive points for the Spartans, who also outscored the Badgers 23-0 in the second quarter of their Oct. 22 win.
Stat of the half: Wisconsin had 165 total yards and three touchdowns after its first three drives in the first quarter. The rest of the way, the Badgers had minus-4 yards and no first downs as Michigan State made excellent defensive adjustments and got pressure on quarterback Russell Wilson. In fact, Wilson has more receiving yards in the half (32, on a trick play) than he does passing yards (30).
Best player in the half: While Wilson got far more attention this year, Cousins outplayed him in the first meeting this season and is doing so again. The senior quarterback is 15-of-17 for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the half, though he did throw an interception. Le'Veon Bell (10 rushes for 84 yards) and Keshawn Martin (103 total yards) have give the Spartans a big lift as well.
What Wisconsin needs to do: Re-establish the running game. Montee Ball had 105 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. He had only three carries for 2 yards in the second quarter. Everything Wisconsin does is based on the running game, and without it, the Badgers don't have much chance. Oh, and tackling better would be nice, too.
What Michigan State needs to do: Keep the pedal down. The Spartans' offenses stalled in the second half of the first meeting this season, allowing Wisconsin to get back in it. Offensive coordinator Dan Roushar is calling an excellent game and he needs to remember to stick to an effective running game. On defense, keep pressuring Wilson, who is clearly affected by the pass rush so far.