Sunday, September 18, 2011

Thoughts from Section 16, Row 28

From my seat at Notre Dame Stadium, I didn't have the best view to dissect Saturday's 31-13 loss to the Irish.

But from what I did see, here are my thoughts:

The loss falls on the offense and special teams coaching. Obviously the fake field goal looked bad because it didn't work, but doing coming out of a timeout, late in the half, against a team you faked a field goal against last year and down 11, the decision to go for it was very questionable.

As for the other trick plays, MSU's "wildcat" has never worked whenever it has been run. The second time they lined up in it, who didn't see it ending up in Cousins' hands. The Spartans ran the same play against Michigan last year.

The continuing to run the ball so frequently also was questionable. It was clear Notre Dame's run defense was strong and that MSU's offensive line was constantly being overpowered. I don't understand why the coaches put more faith in the offensive line and trick plays than in the hands of Kirk Cousins. The playcalling constantly put Cousins in bad positions in the first half.

By the time they put the ball in Cousins' hands, it was too late. Cousins had some questionable plays, but it was clear he was the most dangerous offense weapon MSU had. Instead of always using the run to set up the pass, MSU coaches need to adjust, sometimes using the pass to set up the run in games like yesterday.

(Add: The red zone offense is a big problem. Ten points in five trips at ND, along with struggles in the first two games. Dion Sims appears the only guy who can make a play down there. The coaches need to come up with some different gameplans when they get close).

The defense actually did make adjustments. If you were to tell me MSU was going to lose to Notre Dame, I would have figured it was because of the ND offense. Pat Narduzzi's gameplan of three linebackers against three- and four-wide receiver sets spelled disaster. But surprisingly, the defense made adjustments, changed plays, used different players (Kevin Pickelman) and had a solid performance overall. Realistically, they only gave up 21 points. I won't count the last field goal off the INT return or the kickoff return touchdown.

Moving forward, MSU fans should be confident in the defense. Saturday's game may end up being the toughest offense they will face this season, and although they weren't spectacular, the MSU defense was solid.

The offensive line remains a problem. Pretty obvious here. MSU averaged 1.3 yards per rush and Cousins was constantly under pressure. It appeared that Cousins was beginning to get nervous in the pocket, a result from being hit so much. The same thing happened last year. If Skylar Burkland is out for an extended period of time, it will be interesting to see if the coaches move Fou Fonoti back to right tackle.

No need to panic yet. Heading into the season, the game at Notre Dame was considered one of the toughest. Just because the Irish were 0-2 heading into the game doesn't mean they were a bad team. As for MSU, this is what the nonconference schedule is for. Just as players will learn, coaches will too. Dan Roushar couldn't use his entire playbook in the first two games, as MSU tried to hide some things. His first big game as MSU offensive coordinator also was the first game he was trailing. He'll learn.

So next up is Central Michigan. This isn't the Dan LeFevour Central Michigan. The Spartans should roll, but once again, we will have to see how the offensive line looks.

I recommend a visit to Notre Dame. The atmosphere is great, the fans are really friendly and the campus is great. Any college football fan should try to take a trip down there once in their lifetime.

Here are some photos I took down there.

This is beneath the Golden Dome.

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