The Michigan State Spartans had a rather unusual road game at Ford Field in Detroit. Their opponent, and home team, was the Florida Atlantic Owls. And at the end of the game, that was not even the strangest component of the Spartans' 30-17 win.
FAU Playing for the Future
It was the strangest ending that many football fans have ever seen. With momentum with the Owls after MSU running back Le'Veon Bell coughed up the ball with 5:41 to go in the fourth quarter, and FAU down 30-14, Owls' head coach Howard Schnellenberger, who was not even wearing a headset, benched quarterback Jeff Vancamp in favor of untested Graham Wilbert.
While this substitution led to some murmurs on the sideline, Wilbert quickly drove down the field and set up the Owls with 1st-and-goal from the MSU 2-yard-line. Here is what happened next:
—First Down: Run for loss of one
—Second Down: Incomplete pass
—Third Down: Run for gain of two
—Fourth Down: False start penalty
—Fourth Down: 23 yard field goal good
Wait, rewind that. Down by two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions, Schnellenberger decides to kick a field goal?!
If Schnellenberger were truly playing for the future, he would have given his young quarterback a shot to come back and win the game. Instead, he demoralized his team and stirred up a lot of criticism from the fans.
MSU Continues to Pound the Rock
For the second week in a row, the Michigan State running attack single-handedly won the game for the Spartans. Le'Veon Bell continued his emergence and Edwin Baker showed why he should be the primary back in Coach Dantonio's offense.
Baker topped the century mark again, rushing for 183 yards on only 15 carries, including a long 80-yard touchdown. He looked great using his compact body to bang through the tackles and run for big gains.
Bell also added 49 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown.
When Larry Caper is back and healthy, Dantonio will have a very tough time distributing the carries to these three capable backs, a problem all head coaches would love to have.
—Kirk Cousins was unimpressive again, barely completing 50 percent of his passes, and threw for only one touchdown. At the two-yard-line, Cousins rolled out and had tight ends Charlie Gantt and Brian Linthicum covered by one defender in the end zone. He chose to throw towards the deep receiver, Gantt, even though Linthicum was wide open in the flat, leading to an interception. If the Spartans are going to compete in the Big Ten, Cousins will have to make better reads and get the ball in the end zone.
—Walk-on kicker Dan Conroy earned a scholarship last week and showed why. He was perfect on the day, converting on three field goals from 41, 44, and 50 yards. With numbers like that, Spartan fans are quickly getting over the loss of Brett Swenson.
—The Spartans pass defense was a little suspect again, giving up 256 yards through the air. The coaching staff will need to crack down on the passing defense, especially with Notre Dame on the schedule next week.