Skip to main content

First Half Analysis: Michigan State struggles mightily against Golden Gophers

The Spartans have serious problems on both sides of the football...

One week after getting punched in the mouth by Washington, Michigan State got off to a similar start today against Minnesota.

The Gophers did whatever they wanted to on offense through most of the half, until a fumble on their fourth possession. On the other side of the ball, the Spartans once again got off to a slow start offensively, with two three-and-outs and an interception on their first three possessions.

Let's dig in...

Michigan State Offense

  • The Spartans managed just 45 yards of offense in the first half, and are averaging just 2.4 yards per play. MSU had possession for just 9:01 of the first 30 minutes. 
  • For the second consecutive week, the Spartans ran only six offensive plays in the first quarter. MSU went three-and-out twice to start the game, had one yard of offense and had the ball for only 3:20 in the first frame.
  • Michigan State had a promising drive going on its third possession, but it ended when Payton Thorne tried to force the ball to Keon Coleman on fourth down and was intercepted. Thorne stared down Coleman the whole way, and his throw didn't have a chance of reaching the sophomore. That's a terrible decision by an experienced quarterback. Thorne has now thrown five interceptions in four games.
  • Jalen Berger did not play on Michigan State's first two possession, as the Spartans started Jarek Broussard for the first time this season. Berger was banged up late against Washington and did not return in that game. He entered the game on MSU's third possession, and finished the half with 13 yards on four carries.
  • In that same vein, Michigan State's ground game is nonexistent for the second consecutive week. Broussard had six yards on three carries. The Spartans are averaging 2.9 yards per carry when taking sack yardage out of the equation.
Scroll to Continue

Read More

Michigan State Defense

  • Michigan State offered no resistance defensively in the first half. The Gophers racked up 310 yards of offense, and the Spartans were fortunate to only surrender 17 points. Minnesota was methodical and balanced offensively, moving down the field with ease throughout the half.
  • Gopher quarterback Tanner Morgan had time to throw in the pocket, and he picked apart the Spartans' secondary as a result. Morgan averaged 10.4 yards per pass attempt while racking up 207 yards in the first half. New week, same problems for this MSU defense.
  • Safety Angelo Grose and cornerback Charles Brantley were targeted early and often by the Gophers. Grose was beaten over the middle several times in the first quarter for big gains. Brantley, meanwhile, was hit with a pass interference penalty on a big third down play. The sophomore was in good position on Morgan's touchdown throw, but the Minnesota QB dropped in a dime to wide receiver Danial Jackson.
    Grose and Brantley aren't the only guys struggling in pass coverage, but it was clear that Minnesota liked their matchups against those two guys.
  • Once again, injuries are starting to pile up for the Spartans' D-line. Defensive end Khris Bogle was tended to by trainers on the field on two separate occasions on Minnesota's second and third drives. He did not return for the remainder of the half. Defensive tackle Simeon Barrow went down with 2:39 left in the first half, clutching a knee. He was able to walk off under his own power but did not return for the remainder of Minnesota's drive.
  • Jacoby Windmon continues to be a playmaker for the Spartans. He already has 5.5 sacks on the season, and he forced a fumble on Minnesota's fourth drive, which was looking like it was going to yield more points for the Gophers. Say what you will about the defense as a whole, but Windmon has played at an All-American level for MSU.
  • Michigan State's rush defense, which has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 16 games, struggled to slow Minnesota's Mo Ibrahim. The Gopher senior had 71 yards on 16 carries in the first half, with a touchdown. Minnesota has run for 4.9 yards per carry so far, and it's allowed them to stay balanced offensively. That's a major problem.
  • Third down continues to be a major problem for the Spartans. Minnesota went 5-for-6 on third down conversions in the first half, including multiple 3rd-and-8's or longer. This was a problem throughout 2021 for MSU, and its lingered on this year as well.

Final Thoughts

As bad as the first half was last week against Washington, this one was worse. Michigan State is very fortunate to only be trailing by 17 points, and gets the ball to start the second half.

The Spartans can get themselves back in this football game, but they have to play exponentially better than they did in those first 30 minutes. That first MSU drive after halftime needs to yield points.