Spartan Football Essentials: MSU Keeps Chompin’, Dominates Youngstown St. in the Home Opener

Spartan Football rolls again, builds more momentum towards the showdown at Miami next week in a 42-14 win over Youngstown State.
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OFFENSE

Another 75-yard Touchdown on the very first snap, why not? With booming confidence, the MSU Offense took flight fast as Payton Thorne found his old high school teammate Jayden Reed to start the scoring party. For a unit that struggled to move the ball and score in too many recent years, Jay Johnson’s Offense has started off his second year at the helm better than just about any second-year staff in MSU history. Any lingering thoughts about a Quarterback competition have been put away for the time being as Payton Thorne continues to progress quickly. The poise, presence, and precision previewed at Penn State continues to develop at a pretty swift clip. Thorne made 280 passing yards and 4 Touchdowns look easy today, which is exactly the level of production you want from a Quarterback facing a lower level program.

Thorne looks in command of his huddle, far more mentally mature than only his third career start, and he’s already displaying big time throwing talent. A lot more than many self proclaimed recruiting experts projected he had coming out of high school. In short, it looks like Payton Thorne has that “it” factor that every program in the country is looking for. He’s been in big stadiums on a national stage before and he should be ready to handle the coming big time road trip to “The U” next week. Thorne even looks little bit like Hurricanes’ legend Vinny Testaverde, who played Quarterback for Miami back in the glory days of “The U.”

The Hurricanes Defense is not what it was in Miami’s heyday, but they do try to project some of the swagger that Miami Football once became known for. There were pulverized by Alabama in the season opener. That may or may not leave any clues for Jay Johnson and company as they prepare, but safe to say, Miami will be the most athletic Defense they’ve seen since Penn State. Payton Thorne looks ready for another big name game on a national stage, Jayden Reed and the rest of the Spartan Offense does too, and the truth will be revealed next week in a tough and swampy feeling environment.

DEFENSE

Scottie Hazleton’s unit probably came into today’s game with the goal of a shutout. They held onto that through most of the 1st Half, highlighted by the eye catching pick from Xavier Henderson as YSU threatened to enter the end zone. YSU ended up with 304 total yards for the day, but only scored 14 as the MSU Defense held its opponent under 24-points for the second straight week. A lot of players got game reps today, which should pay dividends next week in the real south Florida heat.

It’s hard to digest, but this was only the ninth game under Hazelton’s lead. The lineup is still in flux, players are still finding their roles in MSU’s multiple defensive looks, and the playing rotation for the Defense is unlikely to truly settle in for at least a few more weeks. Today the Spartan Nation was introduced to the likes of Jeff Peitrowski, who turned a few heads with a few big plays early. Next week, there could be another new name making plays in green and white. The Spartan Defense will need their best week under Hazelton so far if they’re going to go down to Miami and prevail over the Hurricanes and Quarterback D’Eriq King. King is playing his sixth year of college football and brings a fine 74 to 17 touchdown-to-interception ratio through 956 career pass attempts (Miami hosts Appalachian State later tonight at 7:00).

Miami may bring more athleticism than Michigan State has faced since Ohio State last year and the weather conditions will stress this unit’s strength and conditioning. It’s hard to think this Defense could have done much more than hold Northwestern and Youngstown St. point totals to 21 and 14 respectively. This Spartan Defense looks as ready as any in Spartan Nation could have hoped for as they ready to step back onto the national stage for a non-conference marquee.

SPECIAL TEAMS

For the second straight week this unit downed a Punt inside the 5. When it comes to special teams in major college football it’s more often the mistakes that cost you. When you avoid mistakes and can flip the field a few times, your Special Teams becomes a real positive. Youngstown State looked to block a Spartan Punt late in the 1st Quarter due to a missed assignment. That didn’t end up costing MSU much, but it’s bound get attention this week. Spartan Special Teams should play an important role in the final outcome at Miami. It’s a good “status check” for a unit still working its way through the early days of Mel Tucker era.

INTANGIBLES

It was a nearly perfect 75 degrees at kick off today in East Lansing and about 87 at the same time in Mami, with a head index near 97. Weather should be a factor next week in the form of that lovely summer south Florida humidity. Humidity has cost Spartan Football before.

There was an infamous face plant under John L. Smith at Rutgers in the early 2000s, filled with cramps and mistakes. And humidity played a major role in the Spartans’ mental break downs in the early portion of the Citrus Bowl blowout by possibly the most talented Alabama team of the Nick Saban era. There’s not much Mel Tucker can do this week beyond hope for a little extra humidity during the week in East Lansing, before they step out of the plane and into that distinct South Florida air.

Spartan Football looks in better physical condition after two weeks than they have in the last five-years or so. That will be tested under a hot sun next week. As your thoughts begin to drift towards the Miami, keep an eye on the expected temp and heat index for kick off. It will be tangible.

EXTRA POINTS

The days of Spartan Football taking the field to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” may be over (many hope not), but more important than tradition or hype factor, the down days for this football program appear firmly in the past. The idea of lowering the program’s expectation bar to just making a bowl game are also gone for good. The complacency and ambivalence that began to hang over Spartan Football those final Dantonio years have been all cleared out by the installation of Mel Tucker’s foundation. This football program is rebooting quickly, next week will give us an idea of just how far back they’ve come under Tucker’s first ten games.