Saturday, October 1, 2011

Thoughts on win over Ohio State

I'm sure fans wouldn't mind if Mark Dantonio held players from the media for the rest of the season after the focus they played with today.

Dantonio got his "program win," even if it was ugly. For the Ohio native Dantonio and his 24 Ohioan players, Saturday's game was more than just a win, it was a statement to show the homestate Buckeyes what they missed out on. B.J. Cunningham and Jerel Worthy, two Ohio natives who weren't recruited by Ohio State, made their statement.

Going into a bye week, the Spartans will be allowed to enjoy this one for more than 24 hours, then it's moving on to Michigan (and the Pro Combat jerseys). Now, thoughts on the game.

Wow. I've never seen a better defensive performance from an MSU team. Yes, Ohio State's offense isn't exactly electric, but the Spartans completely dominated the OSU offense — especially the offensive line. The defensive line did a great job of staying in their gaps and the linebackers reaped the rewards. A school record nine sacks, five of which came from Chris Norman, Denicos Allen and Max Bullough.

Earlier in the week, I wrote for MLive about how the championship-caliber defense Mark Dantonio wanted to hang his hat on is coming into form. I haven't looked at the stats, but I think MSU should come out of this still leading the nation in total defense, as they gave up just 178 yards to the Buckeyes.

Miller could rarely look down field at his receivers because he was looking at his protection all day. He had -27 rushing yards, which is a promising sign, as MSU's next three opponents having mobile quarterbacks, and two of them are run-first.

I've said it before, but MSU's front four is playing elite. Will Gholston finally got his sack, but he played like a star, living up to that five-star billing.

I will never understand why Narduzzi blitzed at the end, which led to Ohio State's touchdown. But overall, a great gameplan from him.

The offensive line didn't look horrible. MSU didn't run for much (71 yards, 2.3 ypc), but they didn't allow any sacks. Still a lot of things to work on, but overall, it wasn't a discouraging performance against a talented OSU offense.

B.J. Cunningham had his coming-out moment. The nation got to see just how good he is. The only reliable receiver out there, Cunningham left a lasting impression on his native Ohio after grabbing nine balls for 154 yards and an early touchdown that proved to be monumental.

Kirk Cousins played like Brian Hoyer. Cousins went 20-for-32 for 250 yards and a touchdown, but it felt like every incompletion was a back-breaker. He also had two interceptions. The first was a little unlucky on a tipped ball, but the second was both a terrible decision and a terrible throw.

He's been getting nervous in the pocket because of all the hits he's been taking, but there was no excuse for some of the throws he made. Also, that fumble was ridiculous. Tommy Rees-esque. But not being able to fall on it was another killer of a play. He has to play better.

People's expectations seem to be rising. I was amazed at the amount of MSU fans complaining on Twitter after the game. A win in Columbus is a win in Columbus. Yes, it was the worst Ohio State team in a while, but don't discredit what MSU was able to do. I think it was a mix of fans being greedy, but also, fans expect MSU to win games which it dominates. The Spartans will learn from this game in both the short-term and long-term, which is why it was a "program win."

This win was big for many reasons. First, getting the Ohio State monkey off the program's back. Second, with tough schedule coming up, the Spartans have some momentum.

Now, it's baseball time.

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