First-half observations: Spartans overcome early problems for 10-7 lead over Hurricanes

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
The Miami Hurricanes cheerleaders perform prior to Saturday's game against the Michigan State Spartans in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Running game slow to start

The offensive line that played so well through the first two games struggled early for the Spartans. One each of Michigan State’s first two drives, the Hurricanes recorded a sack, both of which essentially ended the drive.

Michigan State was able to find some rhythm late in the first quarter, getting a big run from Kenneth Walker III and a third-down scramble from Payton Thorne to move deep into Miami territory. However, when the Spartans needed some tough yards in the red zone, it couldn’t get any push and had to settle for a Matt Coghlin field goal.

The Spartans failed again on their next drive, unable to get a first down after a 51-yard pass from Thorne to Tre Mosley followed by a 15-yard penalty for a horse-collar tackle. Coghlin then pushed a 39-yard field goal attempt wide right as MSU failed to capitalize on a big play.

Secondary continues to struggle

The secondary had their problems back in the opener against Northwestern, and they continued to struggle in the first half against Miami. It wasn’t the big plays over the top this time. Instead, the cornerbacks were giving huge cushions and Miami quarterback D’Eriq King simply kept throwing to the open man that was being given 8-10 yards each play.

When Miami marched down the field, going 75 yards on 10 plays to take the lead in the second quarter, King connected with Charleston Rambo five times for 70 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown pass on fourth down when nobody bothered to cover the junior receiver.

The Hurricanes kept it coming on the next drive with three straight pass plays to get well into Michigan State territory. However, the Spartans dodged a bullet when the Hurricanes missed a 27-yard field goal attempt.

Spartans opportunistic

Michigan State didn’t play well overall in the first half, but somehow managed to take a lead into the locker room. The Spartans surely took advantage of a Miami fumble, a missed field goal and a dropped pass in the end zone, but they had their own problems, giving up sacks and missing their own field goal.

In tough conditions on the road against a good team, the Spartans were able to overcome some early problems along the offensive line and lead at halftime. It even got its best player moving as Walker ran 12 times for 86 yards and had two receptions, one for a 7-yard touchdown.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mcharboneau