Michigan State Can't Afford to Take Step Back on Offense with Upcoming Schedule
Just when we all thought we knew that Michigan State was becoming a complete football team, it had to go out and do what it did on Saturday against Purdue.
The Spartans won 14-0 over the Boilermakers and improved to 6-1 on the season, but just like earlier this year, Michigan State did it on the back of its defense and got very little help from its offense.
If this had been Nebraska, or Michigan or even Minnesota, a win like this wouldn't be bad news, as it would have been against a decent defensive football team.
But against Purdue? That's the defense you chose to lay an offensive egg against?
You know, the Purdue defense that is giving up 34.4 points a game on average this season (11th in the Big Ten)?
This was also an offense that was becoming better by the week versus a defense that was one of the worst overall in the Big Ten—forgive us for thinking you could've put up more than 14 points.
It wasn't just the point total that was worrisome from Saturday's win for the Spartans, either.
MSU's offense was held under its season average in rushing yards, passing yards and total yards—going for just 182 yards rushing, 112 yards passing and 294 yards in total offense on Saturday afternoon.
The Spartan offense also managed to muster up just one touchdown on the day against a defense that had given up 31 touchdowns to opponents coming into this past weekend.
Given the improvement over the two weeks leading up to the Purdue game, Michigan State's offense should've had a field day, yet the same old problems that plagued this team earlier this season crept up once again on Saturday.
It couldn't finish off drives, nor get into a rhythm in the passing game or be effective on third downs—all things needed to win games with your offense.
Let's also give Purdue's defense some credit, because it played perhaps its best game of the season.
Defensive end Bruce Gaston Jr. stepped up in a big way, with five tackles and two tackles for loss, while the secondary played as aggressively as it had all season, which paid off in a big way, too.
However, this was also clearly a step back for the Spartans offensively, and while they get a chance at Illinois' porous defense this weekend, they can't afford to rest on their defense alone the rest of the season.
Will Michigan State's Offense Keep it from Winning the Legends Division?
Quarterback Connor Cook's performance was the most worrisome part of what happened in East Lansing this past weekend. After solidifying his starting spot in a win over Iowa and building off of it last week against Indiana, he was awful on Saturday.
It wasn't just the paltry 112 yards he threw for either; it was the fact that Cook was wildly inaccurate at the worst of times. Cook completed just 52 percent of his passes on the day (13-of-25) and was just 5-of-9 on third downs (one of those completions was for a nine-yard loss as well).
That's not progression or even stabilization—it was complete regression, and in order to stay in the Legends Division race, Michigan State will need something from its offense going forward into November.
With Nebraska, Michigan and Northwestern still on its schedule as capable offensive teams, one offensive touchdown from the Spartans isn't likely to win them the games they need if they want to get back to Indianapolis at the end of the season.
*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.
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