Defense is supposed to win you championships, not necessarily games—yet on Friday night in East Lansing, that's exactly what happened as the Spartans got past a pesky Western Michigan team, 26-13.
Without two defensive touchdowns for Michigan State, the storyline of this game would have been vastly different. In fact, we aren't sitting here talking about a victory at all; instead, we are talking about how the Spartans found a way to lose the opener 13-12.
Coaches will tell us all that a W is a W, but we all know better than that.
Michigan State's defense dominated against a team that they should've dominated against. They forced 11 punts from the Broncos, allowed just 204 yards of total offense and held the visitors to 11 yards rushing.
All impressive numbers to say the least. But the most impressive moments came from the arm (as you'll see below) and legs of cornerback Kurtis Drummond, who had this insane one-handed pick:
Which was only the second best thing he did on the night, as he scored a touchdown off of teammate Jarius Jones' pick earlier in the first quarter.
Yet we all expected MSU to play well defensively coming off a top-10 ranking nationally last season in every major category. What was really important on Friday night was what happened on the other side of the ball.
Instead of getting answers to some major questions at running back, quarterback and offensive line, the game left us with even more questions than we had coming into the season.
Neither quarterback that played (Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook) was anywhere close to effective, combining to go 17-37 for 116 yards and no touchdowns. If you could declare a winner, Maxwell was at least the more accurate passer—completing 11 of 21 attempts—but he had all of 74 yards (just 6.7 yards per completion) for the game.
Cook, the backup who led the team to the game winning drive in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl last season, was actually worse through the air. He was just 6-16 for 42 yards passing, but did add something on the ground with 35 yards on five carries (second most yards rushing on the day).
Who Should Start at Quarterback for MSU?
What was even more troubling than the quarterback play was the fact that the one thing that killed the MSU offense the most last season—dropped passes—reared its ugly head once again to open the 2013 season.
Clearly, choosing a quarterback and ultimately an offensive identity won't be easy for the Spartans, but perhaps two of Dantonio's players have the best idea of all to decide the issue—a little game of rock-paper-scissors.
The other big question coming into the game was what the running attack was going to offer, considering that 92 percent of the yards gained on the ground last year weren't coming back for 2013.
MSU lined up with Jeremy Langford as the starter and he ran for a decent 94 yards on 20 carries in the win. He also had the lone offensive touchdown for the Spartans.
However, this was a Western Michigan defense coming off a season in which they gave up nearly 400 yards of total offense and over 155 yards on the ground.
It took MSU 42 attempts to get their 181 yards in the rushing game, but just 3.8 yards a game against an opponent like Western Michigan doesn't make one confident they can do that or better against the likes of Notre Dame or Michigan later in the season.
After one game, we can't draw too many conclusions, but it sure felt like what we saw on Friday night was a near repeat of what was witnessed in 2012. And if you are a Spartans fan, that's not good news at all.
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