Go Green Blair White! Spartans Move to 3-1 In the Big Ten With Win Over Northwestern!

Hondo S. Carpenter

October 17, 2009

East Lansing, Michigan

Spartan Stadium

 

Go Green Blair White!

 

There are several story lines from today’s game and we plan to get to them all. First and foremost the Spartans continue their winning ways with a big homecoming victory over Northwestern 24-14.

Early on the Spartans recognized the loss of super sophomore Glenn Winston when they couldn’t convert on their first drive on a fourth and goal at the Wildcat one-yard line. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was unable to punch it in for the early score, a task Winston would have been entrusted to do prior to his injury.

The storyline of the game was that the Spartans, under Dantonio, are used to a signature win, which is capped by a big performance from a tailback. Today the Spartans were led by their version of Rudy: Blair White. White dominated a Wildcat defense that did everything but tackle him prior to the snap, and he kept going strong despite all the attention. 

Go Green!  Blair White!  Here he is after an amazing third quarter TD.  Photo Courtesy of Bill Marklevits.
Go Green! Blair White! Here he is after an amazing third quarter TD. Photo Courtesy of Bill Marklevits.

Running and catching like the Energizer bunny rabbit, White went long and short, sideline-to-sideline, across the middle and down the field and the Wildcats were merely spectators to his career day. Double and triple coverage couldn’t stop the Spartan star, who had his way like a man among boys. White caught 12 passes for 186 yards and single-handedly dispatched the overmatched Wildcats for a career day.

Unfortunately, freshman Edwin “ROCK” Baker had his red shirt taken off as the bevy of running backs on MSU’s roster couldn’t step up and give the staff enough confidence that they could win without him.

 

Despite a big fumble that cost the Spartans a score, Baker played well, running 12 times for 45 yards.  Dantonio addressed the fumble in his post game press conference when he said, “You have to expect growing pains. If that was a sophomore or a junior or a guy in his second year that is something else.” Larry Caper also had a good day with 16 carries for 63 yards. The fact that Baker’s red shirt was taken off spells an uncertain future for three current Spartans. 

 

Dantonio made it clear after the game that he tried to get three others to keep Baker off of the field. “We allowed three guys to move in that direction and had to make the call. … After watching everybody play, we had to make the decision of what was best for this team.”

 

With none of them able to step up and take playing time this season or last year when the staff practically begged someone to earn some time with Ringer, they have certainly had plenty of time to earn their keep. They also had all spring and now with the season underway and this grand opportunity they let pass today certainly was disappointing. The staff didn’t want to use Baker, but felt they had to. That was the biggest disappointment, for an otherwise good day. 

 

Red shirt freshman Caulton Ray was listed as the second string running back, but clearly was the third guy regardless of what they depth chart said. When Baker came in during the first series that said all that needed to be spoken about his situation. 

 

Red shirt sophomore Ashton Leggett’s (already rumored to be considering a transfer) failure to play, along with fellow red shirt sophomore Andre Anderson’s lack of contribution and a critical personal foul penalty certainly has to force them to reconsider their situation. 

 

The Spartans now move to 4-3 and 3-1 in the Big Ten. With the Buckeyes falling today unexpectedly to the Boilermakers, and the Hawkeyes giving the only Big Ten team to beat MSU (Wisconsin) their second conference loss, the Spartans have a legit shot at the Big Ten title if they run the field.

 

The Spartan defense was impressive stopping the Wildcats. They Cats like to run a play about every 15-18 seconds, forcing a major up-tempo scheme. That didn’t happen today as they had a mere 76-65-play advantage. Credit that to D C Pat Narduzzi, whose team did one of the bests jobs stopping the Wildcat schemes all season, even while the time of possession was nearly even.

 

The statistics will say the Spartans had 375 yards in total offense (94 rushing), but that is misleading. Rather than try to run up the score against his friend Pat Fitzgerald, with just over two minutes left in the game, the Spartans took over the ball on the Wildcat side of the field and with their foe out of time outs, the Spartans took a knee three times, losing 11 yards — a classy move that the Spartans have come to expect from Dantonio.

 

I said before the season that everyone was talking about Greg Jones and rightfully so, but that Eric Gordon would earn attention also. He had 15 tackles to Jones’ 14.

 

The Spartans came into the game averaging 20 points a game and over 420 yards of offense. Neither number was reached, but certainly when they can run for an adjusted 105 yards and pass for 281, those numbers look good. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell let Kirk Cousins in the first half get his rhythm back after essentially sitting out a week with an ankle injury, but he came out firing in the second half with several tremendous throws. He finished 21 of 31, and even Dantonio said, “He came out and played with poise.”

 

If you had to question the offense, it would be the virtual disappearance of the TE. Coming into the season and even today, it is safe to say that position is the Spartans’ deepest. Charlie Gantt was the only tight end to catch a pass, and that was only one for 15 yards. I plan to ask Dantonio about it this week.

 

What matters now is the Spartans move to 4-3 after a rough 1-3 start. They didn’t quit, and they now have played themselves back into the legitimate hunt for the Big Ten title. Critics who cried same old Spartans after the loss to the Badgers now face a diet of crow. This isn’t a Big Ten title team. Far from it for those who are honest, but once again this staff has a group of young men believing. Believing that the special can be ordinary in East Lansing.

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