Saturday, September 30, 2006
Your seat was warm before the season, now it is on fire and you should be fired right along with it.
Losing to Illinois was inexcusable.
Not only did they have a 10-game Big Ten losing streak coming into the game, but the game was at home, it was homecoming and they beat you from start to finish running the same play time and time again.
The beat you with the same zone-read play with Juice Williams. His name is not Vince Young, he is a true freshman named Juice Williams who put up 103 yards against you running the ball.
The thing is, your offense runs that play, so the defense has seen in plenty of times before in practice. Yet you still could not stop it.
True, both Javon Ringer and Drew Stanton left the game with injuries. But last I checked they don't play on defense and they weren't producing offensively when they were on the field.
You said it. You said it is the coaches job to get the team ready and prepared to play. If your team was not prepared enough to play Illinois for homecoming, when will they be ready to play?
It's over. The team has derailed and so has the season. This will be the first time the Spartans have stayed home three consecutive years during bowl season since the 18-year stretch between 1966 and 1984 when their simply weren't many bowls to go to.
We suffered through Louisiana Tech, Rutgers and Hawaii and now back-to-back homecoming losses to Northwestern and Illinois.
It is unfortunately obvious you are not the man to turn the Spartans around. Instead, we are seeing similarities between you and Bobby Williams and the 2002 season. A bowl win in your first year, experts suggesting you have lost your team and now a team ready to implode before playing Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Bobby and his team lost 49-3 that season, will you fare any better?
The new wagon I am on got awfully full today, will you or Ron Mason notice?
If it wasn't bad enough that MSU choked away a 16-point fourth quarter lead at home against Notre Dame and followed that up by helping Illinois break their 10-game Big Ten losing streak by not showing up at Spartan Stadium on Saturday, it got worse.
Both quarterback Drew Stanton and running back Javon Ringer were knocked out of the game with injuries. Stanton looked just shaken up after a near fumble, but Ringer's injury looked much worse after taking a shot to his right knee in the first half.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Brian Hoyer came in to lead the Spartans to two scoring drives to tie the game and Jehuu Caulcrick and A.J. Jimmerson are capable backups for Ringer, but those injuries did not come at a good time with Michigan and Ohio State next on the schedule.
We will have to wait and see how extensive the injuries are.
And the collapse is on!
After blowing a 16-point fourth quarter lead last week against Notre Dame, many wondered how Michigan State would respond. Would the Spartans (3-2, 0-1) fold like a cheap tent as they did in 2005 after losing to Michigan? Or would they respond well and trounce one of the Big Ten doormats.
Now we know. And with games against Michigan and Ohio State looming in the next two weeks, the future of the Spartans 2006 campaign is a bleak as ever.
After letting Notre Dame chase Drew Stanton all over the field last week, Illinois (2-3, 1-1) was able to pressure Stanton all afternoon leading to five sacks and eventually knocking him out for the game in the fourth quarter.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Brian Hoyer did lead two scoring drives to tie the game, but this game was on the defense.
Defensive coordinator Chris Smeland and his defensive crew gave up 252 yards rushing to the Ilini who came into the game averaging just 160 on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Spartan offense, put up just 259 yards and only 82 of those came on the ground (MSU had been averaging 255 rushing yards per game).
In the past five quarters, MSU has been outscored 42-20 and has put its season on the brink.
The house of cards that is Spartan football is coming down yet again.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Not only is it Homecoming in East Lansing, but Illinois is just 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the Big Ten so far this season. The Illini were defeated 24-7 by Iowa last week at home in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Illinois has also provided a way for the Spartans to get healthy plenty of times over the last decade or so. MSU (3-1, 0-0) has defeated Illinois nine consecutive times and 10 out the last 11 - including four consecutive in games played in East Lansing.
Meanwhile, Michigan State blew a sure-fire win against Notre Dame last week, but still boast the top offense in the Big Ten and 5th ranked offense in the country. MSU's rushing attack is tops in the conference and 5th in the nation and it is ranked 5th in the conference and 45th in the nation in passing.
Defensively, the Spartans have the 7th rated defense in the conference and 54th in the nation.
Illinois brings in Juice Williams at quarterback who has completed just 22-of-62 passes for 427 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. They are led on the ground by Pierre Thomas who has rushed 40 times for 239 yards and two touchdowns.
This season, Illinois has been outscored 105-70, defeating Eastern Illinois and losing to Rutgers, Syracuse and Iowa. Of the Illinois 70 points, 42 of them came against Eastern Illinois and they were completely shutout by Rutgers, 3-0.
As I said, a perfect team to play to get healthy.
For the record: MSU leads the all-time series with Illinois 23-16-2 and leads 12-7-1 in East Lansing.
In last year's game (to put the Spartans to 4-0 on the season before the collapse of 2005), MSU waxed Illinois 61-14 in Champaign. Drew Stanton was 20-of-26 for 259 yards and a school record five touchdowns while Javon Ringer rushed 13 times for a MSU-freshman record 194 yards.
Normally, I am not into big time rants and raves on talk shows, I think most of the time they are phony. I just think it is impossible to go SO worked up about something, no matter how passionate you are about.
But this is special.
It comes to us from Mike Valenti, an MSU grad, who co-hosts "The Sports Inferno" with Detroit News columnist Terry Foster on 1270 WXYT The Sports Station in Detroit. Maybe I enjoy it so much because Valenti has a way with words and this show certainly has become a favorite of mine over the past few months.
Click here to relive those moments from Monday: http://media.putfile.com/Valenti-rant
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Then mistakes and penalties pile up.
MSU loses the lead and then the game.
Unfortunately for MSU fans, this scenario has played out far too often - especially in the past few years.
- 2006 - MSU leads Notre Dame 31-14 at half, loses 40-37
- 2005 - MSU leads at Ohio State 17-7 before a major special teams gaffe on the last play of the first half and subsequent second-half collapse to lose 35-24.
- 2005 - MSU leads at Notre Dame 38-24 going into the fourth quarter, gives up 14 fourth quarter points and hang on for a 44-41 win in overtime.
- 2004 - MSU leads at Michigan 27-10 and loses 45-37 in triple overtime.
As Spartan fans know all to well, the loss to Michigan in 2004 and the loss to Ohio State in 2005 were the starting points to humiliating season-ending meltdowns.
This season, after Saturday's collapse against the Irish, MSU has a home game against Illinois before taking on the Wolverines and Buckeyes in the following two weeks.
These Spartans need to show they can withstand the adversity they inflicted on themselves against the Irish and continue to battle as the Big Ten season begins - and after Illinois, it begins with a bang.
Notre Dame scored 19 fourth quarter points to cap its come-from-behind 40-37 win over the Spartans on Saturday night in East Lansing.
The Spartans (3-1) led 31-14 at halftime, but faltered both on offense and on defense in the second half, allowing the Fighting Irish (3-1) to stay in and then ultimately win the game.
More analysis to come later when it sinks in.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Waters coached MSU from 1980-82 and had a record of 10-23 during that span. Waters also was a fullback for the Spartans from 1946-49.
Waters also coached at Hillsdale College and Saginaw Valley State University.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
When Michigan State and Notre Dame meet on Saturday night in Spartan Stadium in front of a national television audience, both teams will be honoring the teams who played in one of the greatest games of all time - the 1966 10-10 tie between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State.
The game ended in a tie because of the strategy employed by Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian which is still debated today.
After being down to the Big Ten Champion Spartans 10-0 in the first half, Notre Dame came back to tie the game in the second half.
Then with 1:10 left in the game and possessing the ball on the Michigan State 30-yard line, Parseghian elected to run out the clock and settle for the tie instead of trying to work down the field for a game winning touchdown or field goal.
Should Parseghian have tried for the win? Or was he playing not to lose the game and therefore the national title? Would it have mattered?
Instead, the game ended in a draw, and after defeating USC the following week, Notre Dame was voted the National Champion by the media while Michigan State (also undefeated with a tie) finished #2. (The Spartans have also been recognized as 1966 National Champions according to the NCAA)
This game has been and will always be discussed in the lore of college football and the Michigan State-Notre Dame rivalry. Another reason it's great to be a Spartan.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
The Spartans took care of business on their first road trip of the year, defeating the Pitt Panthers 38-23 to improve their mark to 3-0.
Despite some slow going on offense early and falling behind 10-0, MSU was able to rattle off 38 unanswered points in the second and third quarters to take control of the game.
I think this was the game many people were looking for - to see the offense make plays and control the game while the defense looked improved over last year.
More analysis to come later as yours truly is traveling for work and it is a big week with Notre Dame coming to town on Saturday. We'll see how the Irish feel after being waxed at home by the Michigan Wolverines.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
It's hard to argue that Michigan State's Achilles heel over the past few seasons has been its defense - especially the secondary.
While it looks like the secondary is much improved this season with safeties Otis Wiley and Nehemiah Warrick leading the way with 20 and 15 tackles respectively. (Of course it is not a good thing to have your safeties leading the team in tackles, but we'll discuss that another day.)
As the Spartans head into Pittsburgh this weekend to battle the Panthers, the secondary will need to be on high alert.
In their two wins this season, Pitt has had scoring plays of 78-, 80- and 72-yards to their big receivers Derek Kinder (left) and Oderick Turner.
Behind quarterback Tyler Palko, the Panthers have thrown for an average of 275 yards per game so far this year, which is two more yards per game than MSU. MSU however, runs a more balanced attack by also running for 200+ yards per game compared to Pitt's 98.
For MSU to be successful on Saturday, Palko will have to be pressured and the secondary will have to come ready to play.
The Spartans have, over time, compiled a pretty good record against teams from the Big East. They have a 21-9-2 mark against teams from that conference.
However, MSU has just a 4-5-1 in its last 10 games played against current Big East members. Those results are as follows:
- 9/23/78 - Def. Syracuse 49-21 in East Lansing
- 9/10/88 - Lost to Rutgers 17-13 in East Lansing
- 9/15/90 - Tied Syracuse 23-23 at Syracuse
- 9/29/90 - Def. Rutgers 34-10 at Rutgers
- 9/28/91 - Lost to Rutgers 14-7 in East Lansing
- 12/28/93 - Lost to Louisville 18-7 in the Liberty Bowl
- 9/16/95 - Def. Louisville 30-7 at Louisville
- 9/21/96 - Lost to Louisville 30-20 in East Lansing
- 9/6/03 - Def. Rutgers 44-28 in East Lansing
- 9/4/04 - Lost to Rutgers 19-14 at Rutgers
MSU is an underdog in Saturday's game, lets hope they can reverse the tide of the recent slide against the Big East.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
If a few shots of Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit, there was a Block S Michigan State flag flying in the background. Whoever was waving it changed it out with a Detroit Tigers flag from time to time as well.
Good work Texas Spartans!
We'll be keeping our eyes on the background during next week's broadcast!
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Michigan State senior wide receiver etched his name in the school record book on Saturday during the Spartans' 52-20 win over Eastern Michigan.
Trannon caught 14 passes in the game, surpassing former Spartan and current New York Giant Plaxico Burress who caught 13 passes in the 2000 Citrus Bowl win over Florida.
The names atop the school record book for receptions in a single game is impressive and now looks like this:
1 - Matt Trannon - 14 vs. Eastern Michigan (2006)
2 - Plaxico Burress - 13 vs. Florida (2000)
3 - Mitch Lyons - 12 vs. Michigan (1992)
4 - Josh Keur - 11 vs. Northwestern (1997)
Andre Rison - 11 vs. Indiana (1986)
6 - Charles Rogers - 10 vs. Fresno State (2001)
Plaxico Burress - 10 vs. Michigan (1999)
Plaxico Burress - 10 vs. Purdue (1998)
Derrick Mason - 10 vs. Michigan (1996)
Darrin McClelland - 10 vs. Michigan (1982)
Ted Jones - 10 vs. Illinois (1980)
Congratulations Matt Trannon!
For the second week in a row, Michigan State defeated a second-rate opponent. And for the second week in a row, Spartan fans are left wondering exactly what kind of team they have.
MSU only lead 24-17 at halftime and the lead was cut again to 24-20 early in the first quarter before pouring it on the rest of the second half.
Like the Idaho game in week one, the postgame stats show MSU dominating the game, but EMU was able to put a few plays together in the first half to keep MSU fans interested and on the edge of their seats.
MSU put 586 yards of total offense on the overmatch Eagles, including 264 on the ground. EMU gained a total of 272 yards. Stanton also rushed for 33 yards on nine attempts and two touchdowns.
Drew Stanton was as efficient as ever connecting on 24 of 32 attempts for 254 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
The running game was more effective than is was against Idaho, with Javon Ringer leading the way with 130 yards on 15 carries for a 8.7 yards per carry average. Redshirt freshman A.J. Jimmerson, in his first action of the season, gained 79 yards on 10 carries (7.9 ypr average).
The story of the game was Matt Trannon who broke the school record for catched in a game with 14 for 151 yards and two touchdowns and he even threw a TD as well.
Defensively, MSU showed more than they did last week against Idaho, limiting the Eagles to just 42 yards on the ground, but allowed 230 through the air.
More analysis to come this week as MSU takes its show on the road to Pittsburgh for the first road test of the season.
For Spartan fans awaiting the MSU-Eastern Michigan game at 3:30 p.m., that caused a problem.
Both the U-M and MSU games were on WXYZ-TV in Detroit, but thanks to the weather delay, the U-M game ran well over the allotted time and into the MSU time slot.
Luckily, the folks at WXYZ saw the U-M/CMU game was a blowout and switched over to the Spartan game - but not in time.
By the time the game switched over, MSU was already down 3-0 a few minutes into the game, causing fans like your truly to ask, "What the hell happened?"
Those Wolverines just can't stop interfering with the Spartans, can they?
Friday, September 08, 2006
It's been 15 years since the first of MSU's back-to-back losses to Central Michigan of the Mid-American Conference in 1991.
And it still haunts Spartan fans and gives ammunition to fans of the other Big Ten schools. When people mention former MSU coach George Perles, they don't always remember the fact that he took Michigan State to its last Big Ten title in 1990 and its last Rose Bowl in 1988, but they remember the losses to Central.
Losses like that are not supposed to happen.
Big Ten teams are not supposed to lose to their MAC cousins.
Worse yet, Big Ten teams from Michigan are not supposed to lose to their directional cousins.
There is no doubt that MSU fans would rather not think about those two losses, but the program has done its part to move on.
Since the second Central loss, Michigan State has won 12 straight games against members of of the MAC, winning their last 10 games by an average score of 40-12.
Back to the Eastern game on the docket for tomorrow, Michigan State is 6-0 against the Eagles (or Hurons) including a 56-7 win the last time the two teams met in 2002 at Spartan Stadium.
As a 25+ point favorite on Saturday, Spartan fans are hoping they see a repeat of 2002, not 1992.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
When Sports Illustrated came out with its College Football Preview Edition, it listed the Big Men on Campus (or BMOC) for each of the Division 1A football programs in the nation.
If you guessed senior quarterback Drew Stanton was listed as the MSU BMOC, you'd be right.
However, as this season unfolds, Stanton might get a run for his money from 5-foot-eight, 151-pound freshman kicker Brett Swenson.
What did Swenson do to earn such high praise? He made a 35-yard field goal and a 23-yard field goal.
Alright, it doesn't sound like much. Let me put it this way. After last Saturday's 27-17 win over Idaho, Swenson needs only four more successful kicks to surpass last years team total of five field goals.
For all the blame that has gone around for the Spartans 2005 collapse, much of the blame can and should be placed at the feet (literally) of the MSU kickers. Last year's kickers went 5-for-16 on the year. That's right, 5-for-16!
With that kind of performance, the team and the coaching staff had such little faith in its kicking game that field goals were not an option at the end of the season and the red-zone pressure mounted on Stanton.
The 2005 kickers did not even attempt a field goal until the third game of the season against Notre Dame and John Goss' season long was 32-yards - Swenson surpassed that in his first try.
So as you heard a collective sigh of relief from Spartan Stadium last Saturday, it was because the little kicker from Florida was growing into a big man on campus - even if it was after just a 35-yard field goal.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
A win is a win, but sometimes just winning isn't good enough
Despite racking up 400 yards, going 4-4 in the red zone, blocking a field goal and picking off a pass in their opening game 27-17 win over Idaho, many Spartans know they have work to do if this is going to be a successful season.
Just read what senior defensive tackle Clifton Ryan had to say after the game:
- On the victory overall: “I’m very concerned. We win by 10? They play in a decent conference in the WAC (Western Athletic Conference), but we play in a premier conference in the country. We should have made a better statement. We have a lot of work to do. We’ve got to get this train on the right road. If not, it’s going to be a long season.”
- On MSU's run defense: We’ve got to get tougher up front. We’ve got to do a better job of playing on their side of the line of scrimmage. They got too many rushing yards on us (113). In our conference, you’re facing backs like (Michigan’s) Michael Hart, the guy at Northwestern, Tyrell Sutton. We’ve got those guys on our schedule. I’m giving credit to Idaho’s backs, but they’re nowhere near those guys’ caliber (in the Big Ten). We’ve got to do a whole lot better job of stopping the run"
Senior quarterback Drew Stanton:
- On the offense helping the defense: Offensively we need to work on our drives. We can't go three-and-out, especially against an offense that is going to control the ball like that. We need to help our defense and keep their offense off the field."
Senior linebacker David Herron, Jr. who had an interception in the game:
- On the run defense: "We just need to stop the run better, and we need to take it upon ourselves to improve on that. That wasn't our best showing, we can be better than what we showed today. We have to give Idaho credit though - they ran the ball hard."
Coach John L. Smith was a little more positive in his comments, but sees the same problems:
- On MSU's run defense: "They ran the ball on us more than I would have liked to see. We have to work on that."
- On the offense: "I would have liked to see us work the ball a little better. I think our offensive staff is going to take a look at this and learn a lot from it."
We thought next weeks game against Eastern Michigan was an afterthought, but the Spartans need to show something more.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Michigan State got itself an opening game win, defeating the Idaho Vandals 27-17, but it was neither easy nor pretty for the Spartans.
Idaho dominated the time of possession behind the running of Jayson Bird, who led the Vandals with 89 yards on the ground. Idaho as a team gained 113 on the ground and 268 total, compared to MSU's 175 rushing and 400 total.
At first blush, it was not the kind of performance Spartan fans were looking for to start the season. MSU, 29-point favorite and home of one of the most explosive offenses in the country, should have dominated a team that went 2-9 last year with one of the worst defenses in the country.
But last year, Idaho didn't have Bird in the backfield or Dennis Erickson coaching on the sidelines.
Idaho simply did what they - and all underdogs for that matter - needed to do: run the ball and run to clock to keep Drew Stanton and Co. off the field.
They did exactly that, holding the ball for nearly five more minutes than the Spartans.
With that stat in mind, there is work to be done, particularly stopping the run. After all, Bird is not Mike Hart, Darius Walker or Antonio Pittman and their offensive line is not Michigan's, Notre Dame's or Ohio State's.
The defensive line and linebackers need to wrap people up in the backfield and not let them slip through the line, as Bird did on his touchdown.
On a positive note, the offense gained 400 yards during the limited time they were on the field and showed just how many weapons it has with six players catching at least one pass in the game. Stanton was fairly efficient going 16-25 for 225 yards and a touchdown and MSU scored each of the four times it was in the red zone.
Also, the secondary looks to be a improved over last year. Sophomore safety Otis Wiley made his presence felt by breaking up a number of passes thrown his way.
For MSU fans, watching the game with such high expectations was worse than the stats would indicate - but the team needs to show more next week against Eastern Michigan.
- Stanton: Efficient as usual with no turnovers and accounting for two TDs
- Secondary: Gave up some yards, but broke up some passes and did not give up any big plays
- Kicking game: Swenson was 2-3 on field goals and Fields bombed three punts for a 55.7 yard average
- Pass blocking: Stanton had plenty of time to see the field and make plays
- Run defense: Allowed Idaho to run the ball to run the clock and keep the offense off the field
- Only 4-11 on third downs