Saturday, January 9, 2010

2012 Season Preview

Last Season:
  The 2010 season went as expected. MSU lost the big three games @ ND, UofM, and PSU but manage to dominate in the remaining games, with the exception of the opener against BYU. A 9-4 record propelled the Spartans to the Outback Bowl against Auburn. Keith Nichol delivered probably his finest performance of his career in the bowl game to lead MSU to a convincing win.

The 2011 Season:

       Key Departures:
             QB Keith Nichol
             WR BJ Cunningham
             WR Fred Smith
             WR Keyshawn Martin
             WR Chris R Rucker
             TE Garret Celek
             HB Edwin Baker (Jr)
      The offense is a complete unknown heading into the 2011 season with the departures of Nichol, the top 4 WRs, top TE, and Doak Walker award winner Edwin Baker leaving early. QB Andrew Maxwell steps into the starting role, one that he is not unfamiliar with. Maxwell has 10 starts under his belt due to numerous injuries to Nichol over the past two seasons. Replacing the WRs is going to be the biggest issues. Juniors Dana Dixon and Donald Spencer replace Cunningham and Smith, but neither of them have seen significant playing time in their careers. True freshman Andy Little looks to make an impact in the group, and Sophomore Jamie Hobbs moves back to WR after playing CB last season. The Spartans should be fine at HB, with Junior Larry Caper stepping into Baker's shoes. Caper may actually be more of a complete back than Baker. At TE, Deon Sims reclaims the starting spot he lost to Celek last season and looks to use his experience to propel him to the next level.

      Key Departures:
         SS Dylan Thompson
         DT Kevin Pickleman
         DE David Rolf
    The defense looks much like last seasons squad with a few less holes. The secondary has been shored up for the time being, with FS Trenton Robinson finally making the permanent switch to CB. Senior linebacker Chris Norman anchors a very solid LB crew while FS preseason all-american Brynden Trawick looks to pick up where he left off last year. The defensive line remains the major question mark after loosing three players to graduation.

   Special Teams:
      Key Departures:
          K/P Aaron Bates
          KR Chris Rucker
          KR Andre Anderson
     Special teams is the weakest part of the team. K Todd Kramer has well documented leg strength problems, and P John Harmon is stepping into a new role. The Spartans lack a true kick returner and will try to rely on backup HB Caulton Ray to carry the load.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Michigan State @ Indiana

     Michigan State came out flat and did nothing but struggle their way through a game that should have been easily won against the Hoosiers (5-3).
     MSU lost star HB Edwin Baker for the game during the 1st quarter after IU had opened up a 10-0 lead. Keith Nichol and backup HB Ashton Leggett brought the Spartans back and tied it up at 10-10 midway through the second quarter. On the Spartans' next possession, Keith Nichol left with an injury that would keep him out for the game. Andrew Maxwell, who had been filling in for Nichol the past few weeks, played only one series in the 2nd quarter before also leaving the game with an Injury. MSU went into halftime tied 17-17.
    The Spartans came out in the 2nd half and scored on their first possession, largely due to the running game provided by 2nd and 3rd string HBs Ashton Leggett and Larry Caper. Indiana would answer on their next possession and that would be it for the scoring in the 3rd.
    The fourth quarter was pure craziness. On MSU's first possession, 3rd string QB Jason Robinson threw a an INT in the redzone giving Indiana the ball with about 5 minutes left and a tie ball game. Indiana then drove to the MSU 40 but their QB Follett was picked off by a streaking Brynden Trawick, who returned it to the IU 30. Leggett and Caper did the rest of the work as the Spartans took a 7 point lead. Indiana took over with about 2 minutes remaining. Follett lead a perfect drive, ending in an incredible deep ball in double coverage for the TD to tie with 30 seconds left. MSU returned the ensuing kickoff to their own 35. On the first play, coach JC decided to take a gamble and sub in 3rd string HB Larry Caper for some extra speed, instead of Leggett. Robinson delivered a perfect screen pass to Caper as he got drilled and Caper scooted between 4 defenders for a 66 yard TD with 19 seconds remaining.
    Despite loosing virtually their entire offense to injury in this game, the Spartans managed to escape this one with a win and keep their rose bowl hopes alive.
    The player of the game was DE Tyler Hoover, who recorded 3 sacks and 5 tackles for a loss. 3rd string HB Larry Caper also recorded 3 rushing TDs as well as a 66 yard TD reception.
   MSU expects to have Nichol, Maxwell, and Baker healthy for next weeks game against Purdue.


Trawicks 4th Quarter INT

 Folletts 4th quarter TD to tie with 30 seconds left

 Robinson to Caper on a screen pass for the win

Friday, December 11, 2009

Red Cedar Shootout

      Michigan State returned home to a wild crowd after pulling off 4 consecutive victories including wins @ Virginia and Iowa. The Spartans looked to go 3-0 in the Big Ten with a win against the Minnesota Golden Gofers and QB Marquise Gray without the green and white leader, Keith Nichol.
    QB Andrew Maxwell, who filled in for Nichol 5 games last season, was a little wild, but played well enough to win. It was apparent early that Maxwell's accuracy on the run is nowhere near Nichol's, so MSU had to throw all the boot legs out of the playbook. Once Maxwell got comfortable in the pocket he caused some major damage. On the Spartans 1st possession Maxwell hooked up with WR Fred Smith for a 40 yard TD in tight coverage on a perfectly placed pass. The Gophers would answer, as Duane Bennett break loose for 1 of his 5 TDs on a 60 yard run. Bennett also had TD runs of 80 and 30 yards. RB Edwin Baker went over 100 yards once again, rushing for 150 yards on 22 carries, however the Gophers did a good job limiting the damage Baker was able to cause as he was not a major factor in the game. The player of the game for the Spartans was true freshman WR/CB Jamie Hobbs. The 4th string CB, Hobbs was laying out Gophers all day. In the 3rd Quarter, Hobbs leveled a Gopher WR as he went up for a pass, causing the WR to loose control of the ball and MSU CB Trenton Robinson snagged it out of the air for a pick-6 and his 4th INT in as many games. Hobbs also forced a fumble on a punt return that was returned for a TD by linebacker Chris Norman. Hobbs' best play came in the 2nd Quarter when he rushed on a blitz, saw DE Trevor Hoover hit the QB as he was throwing, and chased the ball into the flat for a pick-6.

MSU Wins 66-42

    The Spartans are going to need more contributions like that from role players if they want to have a chance against the likes of Michigan and Penn State.

Maxwell puts one on a dime for Fred Smith

Jamie Hobbs picks off Marquise Gray for 6

Jamie Hobbs punishes the punt returner and Norman scoops up the fumble for 6

PLAY OF THE YEAR: Jamie Hobbs destroys the WR mid air and Trenton Robinson snags the ball out of the air for 6.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Northwestern @ Michigan State

It was an exciting night game in East Lansing, Michigan. Northwestern jumped all over Michigan State in the first quarter, going up 10-0 on their first two possessions. On their first possession, QB Dan Persa hooked up with WR Charles Brown for a 25 yard TD.

Persa 25 yard TD pass

Michigan State QB Keith Nichol put the Spartans on his back and willed his team back into the game with a 69 yard TD strike to TE Garett Celek.

Keith Nichols TD pass to TE Garett Celek

The second quarter was back and forth as the two teams put up a combined 49 points in the quarter. Persa and Nichol were putting on a show for the ages. MSU went into halftime with a 4 point lead, 35-31. The second half was a different story. The third quarter saw only 3 points scored by either team, as Aaron Bates added a field goal to the Spartans lead. The Spartan defense really showed up in the 4th quarter. Persa was picked off by FS turned CB Trenton Robinson on Northwestern's first possession of the quarter.

Trenton Robinson's INT

That INT lead directly to an Edwin Baker scamper for a TD to increase the Spartan lead to 14.

 The game was finally over when a brutal hit during the NW kick return resulted in a fumble and recovery by WR Chris Rucker.

The player of the game was undoubtably Keith Nichol, who threw for over 450 yards and 3 TDs while rushing for a 4th TD, but RB Edwin Baker did his best Javon Ringer imitation rumbling for 199 yards on 31 carries.

MSU wins this one 55-31, shutting NW out in the 2nd half, winning their first Big Ten game of the season.

MSU also received their first commitment of the season from four star FS Avery Fitch, who was ranked the #91 prospect in the nation, and #9 safety. 

Go Green.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Games 1 & 2 Recap

   The 2011 season has not started off how Sparty would have liked. No one had them beating #1 ND in South Bend, but the loss in the home opener to BYU was relatively shocking. Lets take a game by game look:

      MSU's offense looked like it could score on anyone, Nichol threw the ball all over the place to the tune of 5 Tds, but he also produced a couple of key turnovers that both lead to BYU scores. WR BJ Cunningham showed why he is considered to be one of the top playmakers in the Big Ten this year with 189 yards receiving and 3 Tds. The RB tandem of Edwin Baker and Ashton Leggett was effective when used, but the Spartans went away from the running game after getting down by a couple of scores late in the 3rd.


        The blame for this loss can be put on the shoulders of the defense. BYU QB Nelson had no problem completing pass after pass against the High School level secondary of the Spartans. BYU's HB also ran wild, easily getting passed the MSU front four and running through the secondary like a hot knife through butter. The lone bright spot on defense was the play of true freshman MLB Tony Hodge.

The ND Game:


    The Spartans traveled to South Bend with their tails between their legs after getting stunned at home by BYU, but they didn't play like it, at least to begin with. MSU's maligned defense stopped the Irish on their first possession, much to the surprise of both coaches. Some credit should go to backup FS Trenton Robinson who started at CB this week as he did all season last year and stepped up to make a number of big tackles. On MSU's first offensive play, Nichol hit BJ Cunningham for a 35 yard gain off play action. The drive stalled there and gave the Spartans a 3 point lead. ND Scored a TD off a short pass and a few broken tackles to go up 7-3 at the end of the 1st quarter, and they never looked back. Nichol was harassed all day, tossing three INTs to the Irish, one returned for a touchdown. RB Edwin Baker had another solid outing with 93 yards on 10 carries. If the Spartan defense can get off the field Baker may be the Spartans best weapon. Despite the loss, the defense showed some improvement and has Spartan fans reasonably excited for Big Ten season.

Friday, November 20, 2009

2011 Spartan Preview

 The 2010 Season:

     Green and white fans everywhere are glad to see the disastrous 2010 season finally come to an end. It was a season that saw first string QB Keith Nichol lost for the entire season due to injury when he was poised for a breakout year. It was a season that saw Nichol's two backups suffer injuries of their own and forced coaches to experiment with WR Fred Smith at QB. It was a season in which the Spartans did not record a Big Ten win until their 6th Big Ten game against Indiana. It was a season in which a late season coaching change significantly hampered the recruiting process, leading to a less than stellar recruiting class. It was a season to forget.

   The 2011 Season:

   The Spartans will try to shake their woes in the 2011 season, but it's not going to come easy. Senior QB Keith Nichol returns to lead the green and white, and if he can stay healthy, he may qualify for All-Conference honors. Senior WR B.J. Cunningham will finally get his shot in the spotlight after the departures of senior WRs Mark Dell and Blair White. Junior WR Fred Smith will get a chance to show what he can do along side Cunningham after playing much of last season at QB. At HB, Senior Ashton Leggett,  and juniors Edwin Baker and Larry Caper will all be competing for carries, and most likely all three will see playing time.
     On the defensive side of the ball there are still some concerns at cornerback. Last years struggles forced the Spartans to play safeties Marcus Hyde and Trenton Robinson at CB. This years incoming freshman will take over those spots, but if they struggle Robinson may re-enter his role from last season. The biggest loss is the departure of senior MLB Greg Jones. Jones was the leader of the defense for four years and one of the best players in the nation. Freshman MLB Tony Hodge will try to fill his shoes, but those are some large shoes to fill.

Season Outlook:
    The schedulers didn't do the Spartans any favors this season. After opening at home against BYU, the Spartans travel to South Bend for a meeting with #3 Notre Dame and coach DatnDaz. They also have games in Ann Arbor and Happy Valley, pitting the green and white against their three biggest foes away from home. A 3rd place finish in the Big Ten this season would have to be seen as a success, but once the season starts anything can happen.

Go Green!