Did Scott Frost Secure His Job With Michigan State Victory?

Nebraska has a signature win. If it’s possible for a team of their stature to have a signature win during a season where they’ve only won four games at this point in the season, that is. It wasn’t a pretty win, but Nebraska fans can’t ask for style points at the moment, and everyone will be proud of it because it’s a gritty win where the defense showed up and held Michigan State to six points for the entire game.

Michigan State, of course, aren’t in the best shape themselves. They came into the game with four losses, and it’s a far cry from when it seemed like they could defy some expectations and jump back into the race for the Big Ten East following a loss to Arizona State early in the season, and a scare against Central Michigan. But it just isn’t the Spartans’ season. Still, despite Michigan State struggling, it’s a big deal for Nebraska to beat them.

It’s the type of win that gets at least some momentum back going into next season, and helps prevent a rookie head coach from losing the locker room before the new regime can get off the ground.

For Michigan State, though, the opposite is true. Blowing a lead in the fourth quarter and doing it by allowing three field goals to give an opponent the win is embarrassing, especially when the three field goals are the opponent’s only points of the entire game. They were without their usual starting quarterback because of injury, but that doesn’t justify Rocky Lombardi’s 3.6 yards per completion and his overall poor completion percentage. Of his 41 passes, only 15 were caught.

It’s what head coach Mark Dantonio pointed to afterwards as one of the main reasons for the loss. “We had too many drops, I felt. If you had to point to one thing in the football game, you got to look at the dropped passes,” he said after the game.

He also explained the decision to start Lombardi in the first place. “We just felt like we needed to rest Brian [Lewerke] this week until he was able to sort of settle himself a little bit, settle his shoulder. He could have played.”

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez hardly had a better game, but Nebraska was able to get three more points than Michigan State at the end of the day after kicking a field goal to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. Could this be a win that helps head coach Scott Frost in keeping his job?

It seems unlikely that he would be fired after one year, but Nebraska is having their worst season in forever and adding one more win adds some more security. Especially if this isn’t the only win they pick up before the end of the season.

While things are mostly lost at this point, Nebraska would do well to fight hard for a win in their final game against rivals Iowa. Momentum is what’s important right now. And Scott Frost managed to pick up some of it by coaching the team to its best defensive performance this season… Even if that performance came much later than any Nebraska fans would have wanted.

Michigan State Will Try To Avoid Falling “A Little Short” This Season

Michigan State will start the season off with a big challenge. They have to face the number one team in the country in their opening game, and a loss wouldn’t start things off on a very good note. They’d lose their place in the top ten, and miss out on whatever chance they had to move up from their current number ten ranking. With a win, they can surprise some people and help establish the Big Ten as one of the better conferences early on.

But MSU isn’t just thinking about their season opener, they’re thinking about the way last season ended. And the way the season before that ended. Both times, the Spartans were out in the second round and went out to teams that they were supposed to beat, on paper at least.

“Our expectations haven’t changed any from previous years. Last year, it’s hard to look at a 30-win season and say we fell a little short, but we did… But coming off one of the best regular seasons in the history of this school and winning 30 games, I think there’s a lot of things we could build from there,” said head coach Tom Izzo, recently.

Junior guard Joshua Langford was there for both disappointments. As a sophomore, he had 22 points in the Spartans’ opening tournament win against Bucknell, but only 3 in the loss to Syracuse. And the seniors? They’ll have some not so fond memories of losing to Middle Tennessee State as a two seed going up against a fourteen seed. The last years haven’t been kind to Michigan State in the postseason.

“I try not to think about it anymore, because I don’t have a time machine, so I can’t go back in the past and change anything. But I still say it doesn’t take away the great season we had as a team, because we did do some things,” Langford said.

Those things included a conference championship in the regular season, but MSU fans expect more than that. This is a school that has competed for titles in recent memory, reaching the Final Four for the 2014-15 season and the Elite Eight the year before. And then, they seemed to hit a brick wall with the Middle Tennessee State loss, although running into top seeded Kansas the year after didn’t exactly help the Spartans.

Where will they finish this year? We’ll have some idea of what kind of quality this team has soon, when they face the number one team in the nation, Kansas. But then again, Michigan State could get it done against top teams last year. They just couldn’t hang on when the pressure to get a win was at its highest.

Jim Harbaugh Quiet Going Into Michigan vs Michigan State

Michigan versus Michigan State is the biggest game of the week. Not just because it’s a rivalry and because it will decide bragging rights for the state of Michigan, but because of the implications this game has for the conference standings. The winner of the game will still be in the running to catch Ohio State, which is second in the division at the moment but higher in the national rankings. The loser, however, will have been dealt a crucial conference loss.

For Michigan, it would be their first of the year and would severely hurt their chances. For MSU, that second conference loss would kill their hopes. It’s a big game for a reason, but going into it, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh hasn’t given much away or provided any quotes that will be bulletin board material.

While the last press conference wasn’t exactly exciting, some interesting things were said.

“Again, better each week. He finds another thing to be really good at every single week. This past week, his running ability, his ball-handling was superb with the fakes, with the carrying out the fakes, with the decision-making, ball security,” Harbaugh said about his quarterback, Shea Patterson.

The Ole Miss transfer threw for only 124 yards and no touchdowns against Wisconsin, but had three touchdowns the game prior against Maryland. During the Wisconsin game, Patterson had no turnovers, and that’s another point that Harbaugh mentioned. “He does a great job of taking care of the football. He had one that he forced in this ball game last week, but that’s the first one I can remember in a while, in several games anyway. Does a great job making decisions. Team trusts him.”

Harbaugh also said a little bit about his team’s quietness coming into this important matchup. “I think we could all use a break from the clichés that have been plowed so thoroughly on both sides.”

However, fans will have to wait until the actual game to find out more specific details. Harbaugh stated that he wouldn’t talk about injuries or schemes, meaning we won’t know which of Michigan’s injured players could show up for this game. Rashan Gary is the most notable of those players, and the star defensive lineman is listed as questionable.

But even with the high stakes, and with Gary potentially being out, Harbaugh isn’t panicking. It remains to be seen how much of that calmness is real, and how much is coach-speak. “The way it always has been, the way it is, the way it always will be. Approach it the same as it always has. Big game.”

Michigan State: Overlooking ASU Would Be A Grave Mistake

Strange things happen during west coast night games. That sounds like an empty platitude, just like “intangibles” or “the it-factor.” But ask anyone that stays up to watch the late night PAC-12 games, and they’ll tell you that the conference has a reputation for some of its best moments happening when many college football fans are sleeping.

When Michigan State travels to Tempe to face the Arizona State Sun Devils tonight, they would be crazy to think that it’s impossible for them to end up on the wrong side of a wild game. After ASU hired Herm Edwards, they were made fun of by both their rivals and various neutral fans. Many asked why ASU had hired a coach that’s roughly 20 games under the .500 mark in NFL winning percentage.

Meanwhile, archrivals Arizona pulled in Kevin Sumlin, former Texas A&M head coach and someone that’s already experienced the college game and had decent success there. Sumlin would help Arizona improve following a mediocre season, right? Well, so far, Edwards is 1-0 with the Sun Devils and Sumlin is 0-1 with the Wildcats after losing to BYU in the season opener.

While Arizona didn’t look that good against BYU, Arizona State ensured that they’ll enter their second game with momentum. They won by a margin of 49-7, which is impressive even if the opponent was a poor UTSA team. They aren’t expected to win many things like this, but it flashed their potential.

Michigan State will have to be careful of wide receiver N’Keal Harry in specific. Out of his six catches in the UTSA game, two of them were touchdowns. He also had an average of 23.3 yards per reception, and 140 total yards on 6 catches. It was against a bad defense, maybe, but it’s not easy to get those kinds of numbers even against lesser competition.

The ASU defense is a concern for them, and Michigan State’s star duo of L.J. Scott and Brian Lewerke should be able to put up points, but their offense is good enough to make this interesting. Furthermore, Harry was the only ASU receiver to have more than two catches. They could spread the ball around more in this game, giving the Spartans some offensive looks that they haven’t seen yet.

On the other hand, Michigan State enters after looking uninspired at times in a game where they almost blew a lead to Utah State. It’s hard to imagine lightning striking twice, but it shows that hurting the Spartans is easier than some would think. The running game in particular didn’t produce as well as it could have, as Scott finished with less than 100 yards.

If Michigan State expects Lewerke to do everything on offense, they could end up with another scare on their hands. It’s also worth remembering that the game is one of the biggest of the season for Arizona State, and should be their biggest home game other than the one against USC later this year. Some of their biggest matchups are on the road, meaning the atmosphere for this one should be top notch.

There’s no guarantee that Arizona State wins. But if the Michigan State team doesn’t have the possibility in mind, the circumstances are definitely in place for the Sun Devils to give them a run for their money in what would be one of the more exciting games of the week.

What Happened In The Big Ten On The First Saturday?

The first full weekend of college football is done, and teams from the Big Ten finally kicked off their seasons with some exciting matchups. Some of them were projected from the start to be great games. Others, like Penn State versus Appalachian State, were simply a case of an underdog turning up and not bowing down to the favorite. And then there were some games that were just strange, like the 108 point clash between Ohio State and Oregon State.

What were the biggest moments from the first Saturday?

Matt Canada starts off with a win as Maryland head coach

Maryland is not the team that most would have picked to pull off an upset. Especially not over a team that should have been at least somewhat wary, after losing to the Terrapins last year. But despite all the drama around the team’s coaching staff, and the fairly recent suspension of D.J. Durkin, the team pulled together and managed an upset win in honor of Jordan McNair.

It was a close game but it was one that Texas trailed most of the time. Maryland kept Texas from gaining the lead until the later part of the third quarter, and even then, they would take it back near the start of the fourth. Their quarterback situation was lamented going into the season, and yet Maryland starter Kasim Hill had a higher completion percentage and passer rating than Texas QB Sam Ehlinger. Additionally, Hill threw for no interceptions, while Ehlinger had two.

Despite the game being stopped for over an hour because of the weather, Maryland was able to hold the lead throughout most of the fourth quarter to secure the win. It’s a win that will greatly help the resume of Matt Canada, a figure that many have mixed opinions about after his failed stint at LSU. Now, however, he has a 1-0 record while acting as head coach.

Penn State beats Appalachian State, but not in the way they wanted

The Nittany Lions did what was expected of them and they dispatched their visiting opponents from Appalachian State, but just about nobody within the Penn State fanbase would like to repeat a performance like that anytime soon. It didn’t exactly make the team look good, after all.

Trace McSorley is one of the Heisman favorites this year, and Miles Sanders should be a good enough replacement for number two overall draft pick Trace McSorley, but none of Penn State’s stars really looked like themselves for this game and the offense was sluggish for much of it. The 45 point output doesn’t tell the actual story of the game, because Penn State only did as much as they needed and not even a tiny bit more.

They only managed ten points in the first half, after all. The third quarter went Penn State’s way, but allowing 28 points in the fourth quarter isn’t going to fly when playing against conference opposition, especially elite opponents like Michigan State and Ohio State. On the bright side, the team showed a good amount of resilience to take over during the OT period and put an end to the game.

But everyone, both fans of Penn State and fans of their rivals, know that it never should have reached that point. If the Nittany Lions want to keep their spot in the rankings, they’ll certainly have to avoid letting lower ranked opponents play up to their level as the Mountaineers did.

Michigan State gets past Utah State… Barely

Penn State isn’t the only highly ranked Big Ten team to have some trouble with a nonconference opponent that everyone overlooked. Michigan State was picked by Vegas as the second most likely team to win the Big Ten East, but they had a scare at the hands of Utah State regardless.

Like Penn State, the Spartans did enough to win the game but didn’t do enough to please their fans and critics, their pass defense failing to close out Utah State and quarterback Brian Lewerke throwing an interception that would be returned for a touchdown. The running backs didn’t have the best game either, with top back L.J. Scott finishing with less than 100 yards on 23 carries.

Furthermore, the winning run didn’t come until there were about two minutes left in the game. That kind of close margin just isn’t what any top team wants out of a nonconference game like this, and you can be sure the Spartans will make some tweaks going into their next game.

Will they have a better defensive performance over an Arizona State team that put up 49 points in their season opener? That’s a question that will loom large going into their west coast road trip this Saturday.

Michigan State Football: Spartans Have Their Leader With Lewerke

In the past articles in the Big Ten quarterbacks series, we’ve talked about the competitions between returning veterans and the new arrivals gunning to take their spots. That’s not going to be the case here. Michigan State under Mark Dantonio is perhaps known for making something out of nothing, but they won’t have to do that this year. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and that’s already been proven before the start of the season.

A look at Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke

Brian Lewerke was a 13 game starter during his sophomore year, and threw for 2,793 yards. He added 20 passing touchdowns and five rushing scores on top of that, compared to seven interceptions. Another thing that Michigan State is famous for is their running game. After all, this is the school that gave us Le’Veon Bell, only fairly recently. But Lewerke isn’t the type of quarterback that you usually see on a stereotypically run heavy team.

If the coaches need him to be, Lewerke can be an effective gunslinger. He threw 51 passes against Notre Dame and ended the game with 31 completions and two touchdowns to one interception. Against Northwestern and Penn State, he attempted 57 and 56 passes respectively.

Calling Lewerke a gunslinger just because he attempts a lot of passes would only be a surface level way of looking at it. A quarterback can rack up pass attempts and completions by throwing the ball into the flat over and over, or picking up short gains from slant routes early and often. Lewerke isn’t doing that.

Against Northwestern, he was willing to rifle the ball into coverage, even doing so a bit too much and nearly turning it over more times than his four touchdowns and one interception stat line would indicate. His deep accuracy also needed work in that game, and he missed several open receivers downfield after the receivers had beaten their defenders. Still, more times than not, Lewerke’s gunslinging play style worked out for the better.

In a tough division that’s part of a tough conference, dodging the pass rush is also a good skill for a quarterback to learn. While Lewerke is a pocket passer, he’s able to move around and prolong the pass rush while still finding targets down the field. You could make a strong case that his vision is his best trait, as this vision is just as good even when Lewerke is on the move.

A rough NFL comparison in terms of play style might be Russell Wilson, although at 6’3″ and 212 pounds, Lewerke is the QB with the larger frame. He’s also a bit more willing to use his legs as a regular part of his game plan, even if he’s not crossing the line of scrimmage with a scramble.

When his judgement improves in his junior year, Lewerke should have a better idea of when to gun the ball towards a covered area and when to hold onto it. That decision-making was dodgy at times this year, but it’s expected for a player in his first full season as the starter.

This year, though? MSU is out to capitalize on the off the field chaos happening in Columbus, and make it back to the conference title game. If they complete that feat, you can already be sure of which player will be at the forefront of the offense.