Looking Back at MSU vs. Cal

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Okay, here are my thoughts and grades on the game: Let’s give credit to the Spartans for going to the west coast and playing some a formidable opponent, yadda, yadda, yadda. So now that this is out of the way, why is MSU playing this game? Didn’t MSU learn from Michigan and other Big Ten schools that going to left coast was bad news? Didn’t we learn from Perles who scheduled Florida State and Miami and promptly got pummeled that this was no way to schedule non-conference games? Didn’t we learn from powder puff scheduling Wisconsin that you don’t get punished for putting fodder on the early part of the schedule? In the grand scheme of things, I didn’t think it was fair to the kids, so I give the schedule maker a D, with the only benefit being some national exposure in prime time which helps recruiting. However, I give the Spartans fans trekking out to see the game in a setting that is as close to the Rose Bowl as they will get for at least a little while, an A+.

Mark Dell is much better than last year. Gantt is serviceable as a TE and the O-line still needs work in both phases but did okay. Cal is a tough team to run upon. Hoyer had his good moments, like throwing for 321-yards. The bad news is he should have ate the football instead of trying to throw it a few times which cost MSU in the red zone. The last drive of the game was purely puzzling to me outside of the catch by Dell. He seemed to panic, but overall today I don’t believe it’s his fault. Brian is a good quarterback.

The first half, outside of the late interception by Thompson (Hoyer’s fault), was purely bad scheming by MSU. Exactly the same predictable plays from last year with defenders jumping routes and receivers finding it difficult to get open. Coaches Treadwell and Warner have got to do better or it will be a long year. Outside of Dell’s big night, I was really disappointed with the effort in the passing game, especially the timing in the first half and the lack of creativity in the routes; not much has changed. I did like the rotation of the plays with run-pass balance, I just don’t like some of the passing plays and the way they are drawn up. They did have 402-yards total offense against a big time opponent on the road, but made a bevy of mistakes/penalties that cost them, Grade: C

Special teams were a major disappointment. The general theory is that you can steal wins in the early part of the season with good specialty units. In fact, that’s how Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech originally kept his job. (That’s another story). Anyway, from errant snaps by the long snapper, to a blocked punt, to a missed field goal, to not getting a man out for the last FG attempt and blowing a timeout, it was a long night. Kick coverage was average, but punt coverage was pretty good, so I’ll give them a D+.

The defense was really disappointing at times. At other times they looked really good. Wiley made a couple picks (one a pick-six) and a nice knock away of a trickeration double-pass. Sometimes they really came up and stuffed the hole and stopped plays before they got started. What was really disappointing, is that if you read our previews, there was nothing that was surprising out there from Cal. Not a dang thing. That 3rd and 13 blitz was close, but it didn’t get there and Morrah was able to pull down a wobbly pass. The thing is, Cal has being going to the TE’s in critical situations in fall camp and several times they made plays out on the field. Why would the Spartans give him a free release upfield in long down and distance? Sean Young deep, Vereen and Best in the backfield, and Morrah as a TE from the short to medium routes, and the Spartans stopped little of it and just couldn’t check Cal. Narduzzi’s defense gave up 31 of the 38 points and 467-yards of offense. Last year five teams had more than 30-points against MSU. Had that not happened they could have won many of those close games last year and they have to do better. On Vereen’s 81-yard TD run, Jones was pinned inside and Wiley dove through a gap and went to the ground instead of staying on his feet and turning the play inside. It was perhaps his only miscue of the night in a brilliant perfromance. Take away that 81-yard run and the rush defense only gives up a respectable 3.4 yards per carry. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, doesn’t win games: So the defense gets a grade of: C-/D+.Yet, as usual, the effort from the kids was all out as expected. They played their hearts out on both sides of the ball. For effort I give the Spartans an A, they never quit. I just think the kids need a little more help from the coaches with calls and scheme approachs (especially in the passing game), and if that happens, they should have a good year. Oh, by the way, that pass rush needs a lot of work to. Some of you may say my critique is a bit harsh, but I am like you, a passionate fan. Perhaps I have higher expectations. Isn’t that awesome! So let my constructive thoughts be cathartic for both of us. Until next time---Go Spartans!!

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