Saturday, September 02, 2006

MSU 27, Idaho 17

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


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