Huge red flags in Michigan State win
September, 22, 2012
By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com
Michigan State won on Saturday, which is the most important thing. But the way the Spartans got their 23-7 victory over Eastern Michigan hardly calmed any of the concerns that were raised in last week's loss to Notre Dame.
To start with, Michigan State managed only two touchdowns against a winless team that came into the game with one of the worst defenses in the FBS, including the worst rushing defense. Both of those touchdowns came in the fourth quarter. The Spartans trailed 7-3 at halftime and did not take the lead for good until late into the third quarter.
All of the passing game issues were on full display, especially in the first half. Receivers had six drops in that half, though some of those Andrew Maxwell throws weren't completely on target. Bennie Fowler fumbled after a catch to set up Eastern Michigan's lone touchdown of the game. Maxwell was just 9-for-19 for 31 yards in the half.
Things got a little better in the second half, as Maxwell finished 16-of-29 for 159 yards and a score. Throwing the ball to big tight end Dion Sims (six catches, 112 yards and a score) is always a good idea, and he's the one guy Maxwell can really trust right now.
As expected against such a crummy run defense, Le'Veon Bell had a huge day. He ran for 253 yards and had a late touchdown. But the fact that Michigan State had to give Bell 36 carries against a bad MAC team says it all about where this offense is right now.
Remember, Purdue put up 54 points on Eastern Michigan last week. While comparative scores are often dubious, the Boilermakers have had far better showings against the common opponents they share with Michigan State, including a 20-17 loss at Notre Dame. Make of that what you will.
What we can make of the Spartans is this: their passing game is not nearly where it needs to be for a Big Ten title contender. If things don't improve in a hurry, especially with Ohio State coming into East Lansing next week, those issues are going to lead to much poorer results.