Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News talks about Michigan State's loss to Arizona State on Saturday night. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
Five takeaways from Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News following Michigan State’s 16-13 loss to Arizona State on Saturday night.
No push, no rush
For the second straight game, Michigan State failed to run the ball with any consistency, gaining just 63 yards on 27 carries. Some of that was in lost yardage on sacks, but the Spartans’ running backs gained 61 yards on 15 carries. Connor Heyward led the way with 22 yards on five carries while LJ Scott had 19 yards on seven carries but did not play in the second half because of an undisclosed injury. True freshman La’Darius Jefferson got his first work of the season, carrying three times for 20 yards. Junior left tackle Cole Chewins tried to play after missing the opener with an injury, but he lasted just one play. From there, it was a lot of the same from last week as the Spartans failed to have any push, especially in the red zone when it mattered. Only Kevin Jarvis at right guard has been consistent. Outside of that, the shuffling continued. If the right combination isn’t found soon, the Spartans’ offense will continue to suffer.
More red flags
The red zone woes were concerning in the opener but they became critical on Saturday as Michigan State managed to score a touchdown just once in four trips. In fact, the one touchdown likely doesn’t even count as a red-zone touchdown considering it came from the 31-yard line. However, Michigan State had reached the Arizona State 16 before an illegal block on fullback Collin Lucas pushed the Spartans back 15 yards. The most critical red-zone failure came in the first half when Brian Lewerke’s pass to tight end Matt Dotson went off the sophomore’s hands and was intercepted. “There’s a whole bunch of things going wrong,” receiver Cody White said. “That’s money time. We’ve got to turn it up at that time. At that point we’ve got to turn it up even more. It’s surprising, for sure, knowing we’ve got to finish teams off. We’ve got to keep pushing and we need to do a better job.”
MSU's Brian Lewerke, Joe Bachie and Cody White talk about the Spartans' loss to Arizona State on Saturday night. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
Where’s the pressure?
For the second straight game, the Spartans allowed an opposing quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards as Arizona State’s Manny Wilkins finished with 380 yards and a touchdown. The Spartans again guarded the deep ball well but were hit underneath often and failed to get consistent pressure on the Sun Devils. Michigan State was credited with two sacks, one coming on a cornerback blitz from sophomore Tre Person. But with sophomore end Jacub Panasiuk out with an injury, it forced walk-on Drew Beesley to start opposite Kenny Willekes, who was kept mostly in check with just one tackle for loss. Michigan State needs to do a better job on some of the underneath routes, but until it starts to get after the quarterback, the secondary is going to be under lots of pressure.
Leaning on the pass game
It wasn’t all bad for Michigan State as the passing game seems hard to stop at times. Cody White matched his career high with nine receptions, good for 113 yards while adding a 31-yard touchdown grab. Felton Davis and Darrell Stewart each had five catches while Connor Heyward had four grabs out of the backfield. As good as the receivers have been, there have been times Brian Lewerke has missed open receivers and on Saturday, the offensive line didn’t do a great job in pass protection. Until the running game gets going, the pass attack will have to carry the load for Michigan State, something that gets tougher when an offense is one-dimensional.
Good time for a break
Maybe the bye week is coming at the right time as the Spartans are dealing with their share of injuries just two games into the season. Already without defensive end Jacub Panasiuk, running back LJ Scott and punter Jake Hartbarger were hurt on Saturday, and left tackle Cole Chewins made it just one play after missing the season-opener. Add in the fact linebacker Tyriq Thompson didn’t make the trip — Mark Dantonio did not elaborate on why — and the depth is getting tested. Outside of Hartbarger taking a shot to his kicking leg, none of the injuries seem to be serious, meaning most of the players could be back by the time Michigan State is back in action in two weeks at Indiana in the Big Ten opener.