The Michigan State Spartans showed some vast improvements in their game against UAB this weekend.
First, the running game was outstanding. Javon Ringer had a solid 80 yards on the ground, and Jehuu Caulcrick rushed for 92 yards and four touchdowns.
We all knew that Ringer was the explosive home-run hitter in the MSU backfield, and it looks like Caulcrick is finally becoming the physical power back we all knew he could be.
A.J. Jimmerson also rushed for 46 yards, showing to all of us that the future is bright for the Spartans.
The passing attack was encouraging. Brian Hoyer threw for 201 yards and a touchdown, but it was his 82.4 percent completion percentage (14-17) that made me say "Wow."
Even though Drew Stanton's departure was a huge loss, Hoyer is a more-than-satisfactory replacement.
The receivers were led by junior Devin Thomas, who had 106 yards and a score.
The biggest surprise on Saturday came from the MSU defense, which held the UAB offense to 18 points despite the starters barely playing after halftime. Discipline was the key—the Spartans never failed to bounce back after surrendering yards.
On the day, MSU forced eight punts and notched one interception. Last year's defense was known for giving up as the game wore on; the 2007 version looks to make its name by staying tough and not giving up.
My overall opinion is that the Spartans have indeed gotten better, but need to step it up if they want to make a bowl game. They have to stay disciplined on defense, and continue to pound it on the ground. They can't ask Hoyer to win games in his first year as a starter, but they can ask him not to lose them—which I think would be good for his mental development as a quarterback.
A quarterback's confidence can be easily shaken. The Spartans need to be mindful of that with Hoyer. We have a solid running game—why not lean on it as the youngster matures?