Michigan State first-half observations: Spartans erupt for big plays vs. Youngstown State

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News offers his observations from the first half of Michigan State's game Saturday against Youngstown State.

Fast start

Apparently the precedent has been set — Michigan State will start every game with a 75-yard scoring play. OK, maybe that’s a tad unrealistic, but for the second straight week, the Spartans scored on the opening play from scrimmage. This time it was a pass from Payton Thorne to Jayden Reed, giving Michigan State a 7-0 lead just 10 seconds into the game in what would become a 35-7 halftime advantage.

But that wasn’t it for the big plays. Early in the second quarter, Thorne and Reed connected again, this time on an 85-yard pass, one that Thorne feathered in between two defenders to hit Reed in stride to put the Spartans ahead by three touchdowns.

Big plays were few and far between the last few seasons, and even though the schedule will get tougher, it is refreshing to see the MSU offense capable of springing a few.

More:Live updates: Michigan State vs. Youngstown State

Shorthanded defense strong early

The Spartans were short-handed up front on the defensive side of the ball, but it hardly kept them from controlling the line of scrimmage. Defensive ends Drew Beesley, Drew Jordan and Itayvion Brown were all out for what a team spokesman said were “medical reasons.”

In their place, sophomore Jeff Pietrowski got the start and recorded a sack in the first half as Michigan State had two sacks, four tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries. Late in the second half, a heavy does of backups were in the game when Youngstown State cut the MSU lead to 28-7, but before that drive, the defense was in control, limiting Youngstown to just 15 yards on the ground and 50 through the air.

The Spartans also created a turnover with an impressive one-handed interception by safety Xavier Henderson. All in all, it was a solid first half for the defense, thought Mel Tucker likely will be lamenting some of the breakdowns late in the second quarter.

Nobody's perfect

Not everything was perfect in the first half. A pair of holding penalties on one drive killed a drive late in the first quarter and both were called on left tackle Jarrett Horst.

It was part of a sloppy stretch that included an offsides call soon after from the defense, as well as a handful of missed tackles, something Tucker emphasized following the win over Northwestern.

As for some other concerns, freshman CB Charles Brantley injured his shoulder and junior running back Elijah Collins appeared to injure his lower leg on a 20-yard screen pass he took in for a touchdown.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau