In my Michigan State-Notre Dame preview last week, I said the Spartans had been holding some things back offensively in their first two games. Last night’s final play against Notre Dame symbolized that sentiment perfectly.
Michigan State’s near-miraculous final play—a fake field goal turned touchdown pass—completed a wild and crazy game between two former Cincinnati coaches.
The play which ended it all, a pass from former high school quarterback and current punter Aaron Bates to tight end Charlie Gannt, was a play Mark Dantonio referred to as “Little Giants.”
The gutsy play call, one which will be hard to duplicate the rest of this college football season, catapulted the Spartans into the AP Top 25 poll. It also revealed the maturity of Michigan State’s players.
The Spartans made mistakes, yes, but they overcame them in the end. From a poor Kirk Cousins interception inside Notre Dame’s 10 yard line to giving up four touchdown passes to first year starter Dayne Crist, this bend-but-don’t-break mentality has worked so far.
The question is, when will these mistakes catch up to the Spartans?
Good teams minimize their mistakes and take advantage of their opponents’ errors. The Spartans are still trying to figure out their true identity.
The running game continues to prosper on the wings of Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell. Both players made the most of their playing time, making some big game—changing plays.
Larry Caper is still working his way back into the lineup.
Cousins is still struggling at times, making bad decisions or missing his targets. His interception in the red zone last night was an example of a play he needs to learn to abort if needed; three points is better than nothing. He did have a very nice touchdown pass to B.J. Cunningham in the fourth quarter.
The defense is still the big elephant in the Spartans’ locker room.
Giving up four touchdowns at home to an experienced quarterback is not a sign of improvement or, better yet, making big plays at the right times.
The defense came up huge in the overtime session, yet it needs to show that sense of urgency on a more consistent basis.
It was a victory that will go down in the Michigan State record books, especially because it came against a rival like Notre Dame. “Little Giants” will be a play talked about for generations; a fearless call when things mattered most. That’s the beauty of college football.