Boy, am I excited for this one. Here are a few thoughts on the game, based on my initial (and so far, only) viewing of the game from Spartan Stadium:
- I don’t know if anybody expected the loss of David Molk to have as much of an impact as it has thus far. His absence reaches far beyond the occasional bad snap — it’s pretty clear that Molk-Moosman-Huyge is a much more preferable combination in both run- and pass-blocking than Moosman-Huyge/Ferrara-Dorrestein. It was tough to tell from being at the game (and in the nosebleeds), but if I had to guess, the biggest factor in the running game disappearing was poor line play. Forcier was also sacked four times, and spent several other plays scrambling for his life. Just a bad performance from the line overall.
- The offense deserves much of the blame for this loss, but I don’t think you can let the defense entirely off the hook. MSU did everything they could to give this game back to Michigan, turning the ball over four times and committing some boneheaded penalties (State finished with eight penalties for 94 yards), but they moved the ball at will. The 17 play, 70 yard drive that led to the Spartans’ first score was pure torture to watch. I mean, look at this:
1-10-MIST20 (12:22) MIST was penalized 5 yards. 1-15-MIST15 (11:30) Running back rushed for no gain. 2-15-MIST15 (11:15) Kirk Cousins passed to Charlie Gantt for 18 yards. 1-10-MIST33 (10:49) Larry Caper rushed for 5 yards. 2-5-MIST38 (10:12) Larry Caper rushed for 6 yards. 1-10-MIST44 (9:37) Keshawn Martin rushed for 18 yards. MIST was penalized 15 yards. 1-25-MIST47 (9:13) Kirk Cousins passed to Blair White for 9 yards. MIST was penalized 15 yards. 2-16-MIST41 (8:59) Kirk Cousins passed to Blair White for 17 yards. 1-10-MI42 (7:46) Kirk Cousins passed to Blair White for 3 yards. 2-7-MI39 (7:31) Running back rushed for 1 yard. 3-6-MI38 (6:50) Kirk Cousins passed to Mark Dell for 9 yards. 1-10-MI29 (6:30) Kirk Cousins passed incomplete to Charlie Gantt. 2-10-MI29 (6:25) MIST was penalized 15 yards. 2-25-MI44 (5:49) Kirk Cousins rushed for 19 yards. 3-6-MI25 (5:19) Kirk Cousins passed to B.J. Cunningham for 15 yards. 1-10-MI10 (4:51) Running back rushed for no gain. 2-10-MI10 (4:02) Larry Caper rushed for 2 yards. 3-0-MI8 (3:17) Kirk Cousins rushed for 7 yards. 4-0-MI1 (2:25) Touchdown. Larry Caper rushed for 1 yard. (2:25) Brett Swenson made the extra point. MI 3 MIST 7, Plays: 17 Yards: 70 Possession: 10:02.
The Spartans were penalized 50 yards on that drive, and yet were still able to convert two third-downs and a fourth-and-goal to put seven on the board. Excuse me while I kick the nearest puppy.
- How on earth do we let Kirk Freakin’ Cousins rush for 75 yards, including a critical 41-yard scramble in the fourth quarter? I really don’t know who to pin that one on: it could be the scheme, the d-line not keeping contain, or the linebackers not doing their job, but one way or another, that cannot happen in the future. If Ricky Stanzi starts gashing the defense for 30 yards at a time this weekend, I might just set my TV on fire.
- Darryl Stonum continues to be both electrifying and frustrating. He was the only Wolverine other than Tate Forcier to put up a productive game on offense, hauling in five catches for 95 yards and the critical 60-yard TD to put Michigan within seven. However, he couldn’t find a seam on kickoff returns, and, more importantly, put the ball on the ground early in the fourth to kill a promising drive deep in Spartan territory. Overall, Stonum had a great performance, and he really seems to be improving with each game, but he can’t make those kind of mistakes.
- Has the team’s tackling completely regressed since the first couple weeks, or is it just me? Maybe it’s just the image of Larry Caper shedding tackles en route to the end zone in overtime, but this team needs to wrap up and haul guys down on the first try.
- There were a few bright spots, so I’ll try to end on a happy note: Besides the terrible decision on the rollout punt, Zoltan Mesko had a great game, averaging 43 yards a punt and booming a long of 56 yards. Jason Olesnavage hit both his field goal attempts, including a 42-yarder. Jordan Kovacs actually looked quite solid in run support when Michigan brought him off the edge; I couldn’t tell how he did against the pass, but he did bring something to the table. Donovan Warren continues to merit “don’t throw at me” status. Brandon Graham continues to toss aside double teams to make plays. Tate Forcier continues to not get nervous. I’ll end there, before I start making asinine comments.
This game was rough, but we have to remember preseason expectations. I expect Michigan to have a solid bounce-back effort against Iowa, and we’ll learn a lot about this team as they try to rebound from a bad loss. It should be a very interesting week of football.