Friday, August 31, 2012
Instant analysis: MSU 17, Boise State 13
By Adam Rittenberg
Michigan State overcame four turnovers and rode Le'Veon Bell and a stifling defense to edge a plucky Boise State squad 17-13 in the opener.
Let's take a closer look.
It was over when: Michigan State converted two third downs and received a first-down run from Bell inside the Boise State 5-yard line with 1:37 left. The Spartans then ran out the clock.
Game ball goes to: Bell. Who else? The junior was Michigan State's offense Friday night, recording an insane 50 touches. He had a career-high 44 carries for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He added six receptions for 55 yards and provided a huge help to shaky quarterback Andrew Maxwell in Maxwell's first start. Forget Montee Ball or Denard Robinson. Bell might be the Big Ten's top Heisman Trophy candidate. He helped his cause and earned a long soak in the tub.
Stat of the game: Michigan State outgained Boise State 348-179 in the first three quarters and held the ball for more than 28 of the first 45 minutes but trailed 13-10 entering the fourth quarter thanks to the turnovers, one of which led directly to a Broncos touchdown (Jeremy Ioane interception return).
Best call: Despite Bell's dominance, Michigan State needed to mix in passes down the stretch and featured its tight ends. On third-and-3 from the Michigan State 49-yard line in the closing minutes, offensive coordinator Dan Roushar called a nifty pass to tight end Andrew Gleichert, who recently received a scholarship. Top tight end Dion Sims also had a big performance (7 receptions, 65 yards).
What Michigan State learned: It has a championship-level defense with a ferocious line and two talented cornerbacks in Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard. It also has a championship-level running back in Bell. It doesn't have a championship-level quarterback or offense yet, although Maxwell can build off the opener. But the Spartans can't expect to give Bell 50 touches each game.
What Boise State learned: The rebuilding process isn't easy when you lose a player such as Kellen Moore. The Broncos' defense certainly came to play, but they couldn't run the ball between the tackles and failed to hit on several big-play opportunities against the Spartans. Boise State's Joe Southwick will get better and should take some positives from Friday night's game, but the Broncos have some work to do.
What it means: Boise State showed it still can hang with the big dogs, even after going through a dramatic roster overhaul. But Michigan State is the better team and proved it in the fourth quarter. First-time starting quarterbacks Maxwell and Southwick both looked the part and will need to improve going forward, although there were some bright spots. Michigan State secured a signature victory it absolutely had to have with Rose Bowl aspirations. Boise State's chances to bust the BCS again likely went up in smoke, as it failed to score an offensive touchdown.