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How MSU can get Back on Track Against a Confident Purdue Team

Big Ten East Football

Last week in East Lansing against Michigan was tough to watch for any Spartan fan. Realistically, with all the injuries on offense and defense for Michigan State, it would have taken a near-perfect game to even have a chance to win. If Michigan State was healthy across the board, though, it would have been a much tougher game for Michigan, but the Wolverines still would have found a way to win a closer game in the end.

Offense

There is no arguing that when a team loses most of their starting receiving core in Cody White and Felton Davis III they will struggle to find a rhythm. It is the offensive staffs job to put their players in best spots to be successful no matter who they play or have on the field. MSU’s offensive staff did not do that last Saturday. This week against Purdue is a new opportunity.

Big Ten football 2018
Image courtesy of Spartan Avenue

It starts up front to establish a run game. This year’s offensive line for MSU has proven they cannot lineup and dominate their opponent all season. The offensive staff needs to find ways to give their offensive line more of a chance to be successful running the football.

Misdirection such as jet sweep fakes from receivers, or false pulls by lineman and giving it on a jet sweep out the back door can confuse a defense enough to allow MSU to get the edge. Motioning or shifting to different formations but running the same plays can make a defense have to adjust more and think about lining up correctly to a given formation, which can turn to more success running the football.

Getting more lineman to the point of attack on counter (gap), outside zone and sweeps can stretch a defense horizontally that may open up more run plays in the middle of a defense. RPO’s (Run Pass Option) also need to be implemented more into their offensive schemes out of the gun to help their run attack, especially with a limited Brian Lewerke and his shoulder not being able to take many hits running the ball himself.

If the team loads the box, throw a quick screen to the edge, or a quick game passing concept like double slants, post/out, double hitches or option routes depending on how the overhang linebacker plays. By stretching a team horizontally, there are fewer people to block in the box to help the Spartans establish a run game.

Big Ten Football 2018
Image courtesy of mlive.com

Brian Lewerke could not have played much worse than how he did last Saturday. He was never comfortable and inaccurate with the football all game. To give him more confidence, the offensive staff needs to give him a lot more short to intermediate throws to can his confidence back: slant, hitch, outs, curl, digs, comebacks and drags as the focus of their passing game.

State also needs to move the pocket for Lewerke more: whether on sprint outs or bootlegs off of play-action to give him half a field to read. And if nothing is there, he can run and extend the plays with his legs.

Third down was brutal to watch last Saturday against Michigan. I expect to see more screen plays implemented this week when Purdue brings pressure on third and long to ease pressure against the blitz.

Purdue has a good defense, especially in the secondary. They are fast, hit well and play sound in their coverage schemes. If Michigan State struggles against Purdue the way they did against Michigan, expect to see some change in coaching staff on the offensive side of the football soon.

Defense

Big Ten Football 2018
Image courtesy of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The defense of MSU is their strength. It is unrealistic to think a defense can hold a good team like Michigan from scoring when their opponent had the ball for over 40 minutes of the game and had excellent field position for most of the game. The three and outs by MSU over-and-over again really put the defense in a bad spot to be successful.

Most defenses in the country that face 53 rushing attempts would give up more than 250 to 300 yards on defense. MSU held Michigan to under 200 yards rushing. Not only that, they got off the field on third down with allowing Michigan to only convert seven of their 18 third down attempts. They were not the reason they lost on Saturday.

MSU has a tall task against Purdue. The Boilermakers put up 49 points on Ohio State last week. A completely different style of offense they will face than the ground-and-pound style of Harbaugh and the Wolverines.

Big Ten Footabll 2018
Image courtesy of The Ringer

MSU will have to contain Purdue’s stud slot receiver, Rondale Moore, who may be the best true freshmen in all of college football. He has electric speed, extremely strong for his size and will make a defense look silly in the open field if given an opportunity. The Spartans have to maintain the edge and force everything back inside to their pursuing defense on any jet sweep or quick hitting screens on the edge to stand a chance against this kid.

State has the size inside up front to maintain the line of scrimmage in the run game against one of the smaller offensive line’s they have faced all year. I do not expect the run game to be the reason why MSU could lose this game on Saturday at home.

MSU, traditionally, struggles against teams that get the ball to the edge fast because they are stubborn and want to leave seven men in the box at all times to stop the run.

Michigan State’s safeties and outside linebackers will need to be extremely physical and knock off the timing of Purdue’s quarterback by slowing down their receivers off the line of scrimmage. I expect to see more man-to-man defense and bracket coverage on Moore, too, to slow him down and make windows tighter for Purdue’s quarterback, David Blough, to throw through. Blough is not a running threat like Patterson from Michigan and McSorley from Penn State. They will be able to contain him in the pocket and make him beat him with his arm.

It will be a fun game to watch in East Lansing. Purdue is confident coming off the biggest upset of the year against Ohio State at home, and the fact they still control their destiny in the West side of the Big Ten sitting at a 3-1 conference record, though they are 4-3 on the year. The Spartans could put a dent in their chances in the race to the Big Ten Title game.

 

Featured image courtesy Impact 89FM

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