I noticed a few things during the game that Brian will probably expand on in UFR, but seeing as how it's Monday and I'm stuck at work for a while longer, I thought I'd mention them and get some feedback:
This is partially in reference to the previous thread about RichRod getting "outcoached" and not having anything new or any adjustments for the MSU game.
1. On our opening drive of the game, the interception by Denard included one slight twist -- a half-roll and pump-fake to the left followed by a rollout to the right, which got Roundtree about two steps ahead of his defender in the endzone. Unfortunately, Denard threw it about five feet behind Roundtree and directly to the trailing cornerback.
2. I believe there were two occasions when Denard pump-faked and a receiver ran a slant-and-go sort of thing: the first was the play near the end of the second drive when Denard had Stonum wide open in the endzone and threw it to Tacopants, and the other was the play when Kelvin Grady got open deep and flat-out dropped a perfect throw. This seemed to be a theme: The passing game should have produced big plays, because receivers were open deep on several occasions, but the throws were too often either uncatchable or simply not caught.
3. The touchdown to Webb was a perfect playcall to take advantage of Michigan State's linebackers trying to contain Denard. The "roll to the right, throw the wheel route back to the left" is something I don't think we've seen from this offense before, but I can definitely see it being an effective weapon in the red zone.
4. We came out and played a lot of straight-up man coverage early in the game, which seemed to confuse Cousins at times and led to an increase in pressure, forcing two straight poor series from the MSU offense. Combined with our two good drives to start the game, we should have had at least a 14-0 lead before they even sniffed the end zone.
What really stuck with me and made me fume for a while after the game was that I couldn't sit back and say, "Well, we just got beat by a far better team," like I said last year when we lost to Penn State.
To me, MSU was about what I expected (now I sound like Dennis Green) and our defense was about as irritating as usual. We gave up 34 points; this was right in line with projections. But I can point directly to three terrible throws by Denard -- the devastating interceptions on the first drive of each half and the overthrow to Stonum on the second drive of the game -- that took 18 points off the board (three touchdowns minus the one field goal we did get) in a game we lost by 17 points.
As a whole, Denard's passing looked about like it did last year: pretty bad. That's obviously a concern going forward, because if he's gonna turn it over a couple times a game against solid or good defenses, we're in trouble (no duh).
Then again, there's nothing to blame other than our own screw-ups -- no amazing schemes or increase in physicality -- for scoring 17 points. It should have been 35, maybe more when you consider that we'd have been running a way different offense in a close game.
I'm not sure if this makes me feel better or not. Maybe a little.
EDIT BASED ON COMMENTS: Just to clarify, I'm not saying Michigan was the better team. I got the sense that the two teams were about equal -- the obvious difference was that we made several killer errors and they didn't.