Michigan State Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. Eastern Michigan
The Michigan State Spartans have a lot to work on against Eastern Michigan after losing to Notre Dame last week.
Last week's 20-3 loss dropped the Spartans down in the AP rankings from No. 10 to No. 21.
It also snapped a 15-game home win streak and accounted for the Spartans’ worst offensive showing at home since a 20-3 loss to Central Michigan in 1991.
Luckily,the Spartans next game is at home against Eastern Michigan, a team which they have never lost to.
But if the Spartans don’t clean up their sloppy play, they could see themselves fall to a 2-2 record.
Generate More Offense
The most obvious key to the Spartans' next game is generating more offense.
Believe it or not, the Spartans did not make one trip to the red zone in last week's game. Kicker Dan Conroy also missed a 44-yard field goal and then later kicked one from 50 yards.
He is only 4-for-7 on the year.
The Spartans dropped seven passes, and Bennie Fowler, who had eight catches in Week 2, had none versus Notre Dame.
Looking back at Week 2, the Spartans scored 41 points in a win over Central Michigan. In this game, Andrew Maxwell threw his only two touchdown passes of the season.
An offensive repeat of Week 2 is a must in order for the Spartans to improve their record to 3-1.
Allow Fewer Sacks
Allowing four sacks last week may have been a fluke for the Michigan State offensive line, but it cannot happen again.
Maxwell took a beating against Notre Dame, which can almost justify his 51.0 completion percentage.
He may get some help from Blake Treadwell if he returns this week. Treadwell has been out since the beginning of the season with a hairline fracture.
Although Treadwell may be in, Fou Fonoti will still be out. His injury will sideline him for about six weeks.
If the offensive line can play well, not only will it give Maxwell some time in the pocket, but it can also help establish a running game.
Establish a Running Game
Last week, the Spartans' running game was terrible.
Le’Veon Bell had only 77 yards on 19 carries. Subtract that from the yards lost on sacks, and the Spartans only had a net total of 50 rushing yards.
Even in the 41-7 romping of Central Michigan, Bell only ran for 70 yards.
The Spartans are looking for Bell to perform like he did in the Boise State game, when he ran for a career-high 210 yards and scored Michigan State’s only two touchdowns.
An established running game will give Maxwell a chance to get some much needed rest from the beating he took last week.
If Bell can mimic his excellence from Week 1, the Spartans should have no problem beating Eastern Michigan.
Force More Turnovers
The Spartans defense has played pretty well so far this year.
It is vital to Michigan State's success that they create turnovers against Eastern Michigan. They cannot give the Eagles' offense a chance to get rolling.
This will give Maxwell and the rest of the Spartans offense momentum and good field position.
They created no turnovers last week against Notre Dame, which is partially the reason why the Spartans never entered the red zone.
If turnovers are more of a common occurrence for the Spartans, then their offense can build off of it.
The defensive core has already proven itself, only allowing 40 total points, but if the offense keeps struggling, the defense will need to pick them up with more turnovers.
Get an Early Lead
Against Notre Dame the Spartans failed to score in the opening quarter.
Conroy had a chance to put three points on the board, but he couldn’t place the ball between the uprights.
Overall, the Spartans only have 17 first quarter points in three games, but are 2-0 when scoring in the opening frame.
In the Spartans' most notable win this season against Boise State, they scored 10 points in the first quarter and were in the driver's seat for the whole game.
Eastern Michigan already has doubt in their minds because they have yet to beat the Spartans. So an early lead could really devastate a team that knows they are already in a bad position.