This will be the 34th "Inside the Boxscore" Diary I've written. It's easily the one I've least looked forward to writing. I grew up in East Lansing, but always rooted for Michigan due to Dad's influence. It would have been hard to root for State growing up when Dad wouldn't let me own any green clothing. I think Mom bought me a pair of green toughskins from Sears when I was six, but once I wore those out, I became an anti-MSU version of Brady Hoke. He doesn't wear red, I didn't wear green. The pastor at the church and school I went to used to be the chaplain for the MSU football team. Our school colors were green and white, and our nickname was the Tartans, an obvious reference to the Spartans. It was and is truly an awful nickname. Our mascot was a bagpipe, or a Scottish kilt. I can't remember exactly. Whatever it was, it did not inspire anybody. Whenever the big game rolled around (growing up in East Lansing, M-MSU rivaled M-OSU for significance) I had to deal with Sparties sparting. Fortunately, all this occurred during the Schembechler era, and I only had to listen to Sparties before the big game. They were usually quiet afterwards. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for today's Michigan fan living in East Lansing. That "little sister" chant is enough to make my blood boil.
Burst of Impetus
* For Michigan, there was one glimmer of hope. With Michigan trailing by 10 late in the 3rd quarter, Raymon Taylor intercepted a pass and returned it 17 yards to State's 41. The boxscore lists this as the "H41." This could refer to the "Home" team, but I'm going to call it the "hated one's" 41. This was our best starting field position by 24 yards. It's hard to score against the nation's top ranked defense or thereabouts, when you are always facing a long field. Five of our 13 positions started inside our 20, and all but one started from no better than our 35. Why is this important? Well, if you throw a 58 yard bomb to Chesson, you'd like to think that a TD might result, but not if you're starting well inside your own half of the field. After Taylor's INT, the next three plays went for -5, -9, and -7 yards. Impetus bursted.
It's a Punt
* I usually start the stats review with the unit that played the best. Sorry to say, but this week that honor goes to the special teams.
* Michigan's average net yards per punt was 38.2 yards. State's was 39.8. That's basically a punt (pun intended.)
* The average net yards per kickoff was 39.1 for State and 36.3 for Michigan. We gave away 3 yards per exchange of kickoffs, but compared to the rest of the game, that's a good outcome.
* I'm somewhat torn on the kick returns, because with State's defense, I felt we needed a ST TD and Norfleet hints at the ability to break one. However, what we didn't need was him returning kicks to the 17 yard line, further restricting Borges playbook. I'd rather start at the 25 every time, so all you need is a first down to flip the field with a decent punt. In what should have been a field position game, I'd take that. However, our defense was unable to get off the field time and again. I'll cover that later.
* Wile made a long FG and Gibbons made a short one. We got through a game without a FG block. That's progress, I guess.
* Devin was 14 for 27 for 210 yards, but that's where the good news ends. He took 7 sacks and finished the day with -46 yards rushing on 18 attempts. Obviously, the 7 sacks weren't called runs. Of the remaining 11, I suspect most were scrambles. I remember a couple read options where Gardner kept and seemingly froze and was swallowed up by spartan defenders. The shotgun running game that was effective versus PSU and Indiana did not work against State's aggressive, attacking scheme. Perhaps Borges should have seen that on film study of State's defense.
20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* Fitz ran eight times for 20 yards. Borges apparently thought it was a better idea to have him pick up blitzers than flare out as a pressure relief valve, or keep State honest with some draw plays.
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* Gallon caught five passes for 67 yards. Three of those came in our first 5 plays. He had 2 catches in the next 54 plays. RPS is an MGoBlog thing. It's part of our lexicon. So let me try to describe what I think happened in RPS terms. On the first drive, Borges was dialing up some good plays, PA passes on 1st down, that caught State off guard. Let's call those paper. Paper was beating Narduzzi's rock. So Narduzzi decided he wasn't going to use rock anymore. Borges then had to figure out how to get Gallon the ball, meanwhile Narduzzi was sending the house, giving Gardner zero time for Gallon to get open. Many sacks resulted. Borges went to scissors at the start of the second half. These were the quick hitters to Funchess. Funchess ended up with 6 catches for 65 yards. Narduzzi adjusted again. But at this point, Borges was out of options. He's got a line that can't run block, no functional tight ends to speak of (I like Jake Butt, but he had zero receptions and I don't recall him figuring in any plays,) a RB that can't pass block, and he was down to 2 WRs with Dileo's injury. What exactly was he supposed to do, when he's playing RPS with Narduzzi, only Borges can only play paper or swiss cheese, while Narduzzi can play scissors, butcher's knife, chainsaw, or flame thrower? Just to beat this analogy to death, against Indiana, the three possible outcomes for Borges paper were 70 yard pass, 25 yard pass, and 10 yard pass. Against State, the three outcomes were incomplete pass, sack, or scramble for 1 yard. For those who thinks this makes me a Borges apologist, let me just say that I'm trying to call it as I see it based on ~35 years of watching Michigan football. The Penn State game was on Borges. This MSU debacle was a talent issue.
Legends Division Championship Caliber Defense
* That would refer to State's defense. Defense wins championships. State's defense is going to win them the Legends Division.
* I understand why Mattison is getting a pass and the focus is squarely on Borges and the offensive side of the ball. But this was a game where the defense needed to step up and win the game for Michigan. Some are saying that State wore down our defense because our offense couldn't keep state's offense off the field. I disagree. State was 0 for 3 on third down conversions in the 1st quarter, but was 4 for 6 in the second quarter. If we're worn down by the second quarter, we're in trouble. Overall, State was 9 for 18 on third down conversions. This coming from an offense that has been mocked, derided, and sits in the negative half of the Fremeau Efficiency chart.
* Michigan State was held to 16 yards rushing on 14 carries in the first half. Meanwhile, we had -20. I was hoping that the team with the most absolute value rushing yards was going to win the game. That is what was necessary to keep us in the game. In the third quarter, State ran 9 times for 28 yards. I don't know if that's due to halftime adjustments or our guys getting tired, but State stuck with the run game and it started to pay off. Then the dam broke in the 4th quarter. RichRod's team gave up on him in the second half of the Gator Bowl. I hope our guys didn't give up on Hoke in the fourth quarter. They have 5 games left to show that fourth quarter was an aberration.
* We had 21 guys show up in the defensive stats. Yes, that includes some ST players, but it's clear that we did much more substituting than State. Why did our guys get tired in the fourth quarter but theirs didn't? Meanwhile, State only had 17 guys show up, and only 15 of those made tackles.
* We had 5 TFLs, 3 passes broken up, 1 sack, and 3 QHs. State's defense, against a supposedly better offense (Fremeau agrees with me FWIW,) tallied 11 TFLs, 3 passes broken up, 7 sacks, and 7 QHs.
This is all leading me up to something that I find rather distasteful. When Dave Brandon fired Rich Rodriguez, he was asked if he would hire a defensive minded coach.“There’s a thought of getting a defensive-minded everything,” he said. “I want the ball boys to be defensive minded.” 44 years ago, Michigan hired a football coach who had apprenticed under our most hated rival. He was a defensive minded coach. Forty-four years later, down the street at another one of our hated rivals, a defensive minded coach may be looking to move up to a head coaching position. We all want to see him leave MSU. What if Dave Brandon were to approach Narduzzi and offer him the job? Pardon me while I go wash my mouth out with soap.
You have an MSU program playing some consistently elite defense, and doing so at a program not able to attract consistently elite prospects. They've been on a pretty impressive run the past 4 years - 11-2, 11-3, 7-6 (6 losses by a combined 30 points) and now sitting at 7-1 with the top ranked defense in the country.
Seems to me like Narduzzi should be a prime head coaching candidate at a major conference team, or a DC at a top 10-15 type team and Dantonio could probably be able to climb the ladder to a traditional top 25 type team where he could recruit better and further build his resume.
I for one hope this happens sooner rather than later. What say you?
Some more changes for Spartans 2013 offensive strategy.
And is Dantonio pursuing future endeavors elsewhere?
Per multiple twitter accounts, it seems MSU Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi will stay at MSU. He had interviewed with Texas A&M for the same postion earlier this week.
Edit 2: Was rumored to be offered $600,000 to $750,000 at Texas A&M where at MSU his current salary (prior to expected raise) is $240,000