I didn’t bother previewing the Youngstown State game, because I viewed it as more of a scrimmage that counts, rather than a football game. Unfortunately, for Spartan Nation, this was a football game.
It’s one of those things when you take the helm as a sportswriter. It changes the perspective you have as a fan, and there’s no way around it. Previously, I could watch the game and totally root for the Spartans and the view was totally downhill—I had no caveats.
But, when you spend hours researching and putting your words to the public masses, you have no choice but to hope you’re words have some pinpoint accuracy; otherwise what are you really doing?
Be careful what you wish for, because it may just come true.
The Spartans were locked in at ZERO against the Youngstown State Penguins to end the first quarter. There were a lot of encouraging things I saw tonight, but there were infinitely more discouraging things that make me wish I didn’t see the game. However, they confirmed many of the loopholes I saw in this team while conducing my research to preview the season.
I’m going to break it down into a simple of list of what was “discouraging” and what was “encouraging,” as that’s all you can really gather at this point; it’s early. Many of the discouraging things come from young players that have ample opportunity to be coached by one of the best in the business.
Let’s hope that happens or Spartan Nation is in for a “state of shock,” much like we saw from the basketball team this last season—meaning, far below expectations.
1) The absolute first thing that comes to mind is the play of senior wideout B.J. Cunningham, who managed to catch pretty much everything thrown his direction. He had a touchdown grab, and many of his plays were led into double and triple coverage, but he came down with the ball anyway.
2) Kirk Cousins. Eighteen of 22 and a couple of those misses were drops. Though I do recall one of those being an easy interception haphazardly thrown into coverage, he made the plays he needed to. He looked like the fifth-year senior who leads this team and will take the Spartans wherever they need to go.
3) Half of the secondary looked amazing. Corner Johnny Adams and safety Trenton Robinson were stellar. Adams looks to be a guy you can leave on an island and he’ll just have a bunch of pops, relax in a lounge chair, pick off a couple of passes and genuinely leave you much better off than you were before. This is encouraging.
4) The defensive line looks good as advertised. It’s quite obvious that Youngstown State had a game plan and countered the rush with counters, screens and quick slants to make the line a non-factor. That’s how they moved the ball and dominated time of possession in the second half. If ever there was a five or seven step drop, Jerel Worthy, and the Spartan lineman were wreaking havoc. I believe this will continue during stiffer competition and cover some of the weaknesses.
1) I wish I was wrong about the offensive line. It looks way worse than I thought. Even senior lineman and anchor Joel Foreman was guilty of a penalty or two. They were getting penalties, getting blown off the ball and genuinely looked like the picture I imagined of a bunch of guys playing in that Super Mario Brothers world of all ice. They were being knocked back and could not establish position against the Youngstown Penguins. This is a reason for severe concern, as if it’s not rectified, we’re looking at a 6-6 Michigan State team and I’m not kidding.
2) Linebacking. Chris Norman looks to have the speed of a Big Ten level linebacker. Other than that, everything I saw out of the linebacking corps was a sham. Max Bullough looked to have the toughness, but not the speed that we need out of a MLB. Steve Gardiner at OLB was atrocious. I can only hope he loses his job. One can only hope to chalk it up to severe inexperience here ,or the defense is in big trouble. They are young, but do they have what it takes in the first place?
3) Special teams were a disaster tonight. Senior Keyshawn Martin fumbled a key punt early in the game that could have had the Spartans looking good in the driver's seat. Kicker Dan Conroy missed a chip shot field goal—not what you’d expect from a guy that went 15 of 16 last season. The new punter looked like a new punter. I’m not even going to look his name up.
4) Half of the secondary is a severe liability. We touched on the exceptional play of Trenton Robinson and Johnny Adams. The other side of the corner and safety situation is an abomination. CB Isaiah Lewis had some good plays, including an interception, and could develop into an “encouraging” strength, but everyone else was full of penalties and confusion. No way to shine positively on that.
All in all, it was a very disappointing night for Spartan Nation. I believe my season projections were accurate and perhaps I looked at this game as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It could be bias, but the game film doesn’t lie. I’d love to hear what you, Bleacher Report readers, think about the game. Am I mistaken here? (I did have a few pops at the Michigan State alumni bar, with former Spartan and current NY Giant Greg Jones in attendance).
From what I saw tonight, the only thing I disagree with in my preview (read it if you haven’t) is our overall record. I’d easily bump it down to 7-5 or 6-6 if we can’t correct these issues.
The strengths of our team cannot overcome how ridiculously awful our weaknesses looked tonight.
Trust me on this folks, I hope I’m wrong.