Congratulations Michigan State. The Spartans end the regular season on a high note with a solid victory over Minnesota. That means we will likely get a bowl game and the extra 15 practices that come with it. That is truly something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend.
I don’t know if we would have won this game, or any of them, without the powerful effort given by Le’Veon Bell. Bell ran 35 times for 266 yards and a TD Saturday which makes it three 200+ yard games this years. The o-line was able to move the Gophers around a bit which opened up some running lanes which hasn’t happened all that much this year. And once Bell got up a head of steam it was taking two, three, four and five Gophers to bring him down.
On one unforgettable run in the fourth quarter he carried about half of the defense on his back for an additional 15 yards. Three cheers for Le’Veon Bell, my choice as the Michigan State 2012 MVP. Word is he’s going pro after this year, which is probably good for his career but I’d be mighty happy if he hung around for one more year.
In terms of the rest of the offense, it’s a work in progress, but we did see progress. The receivers looked good making catches and picking up yards after the catch. Bennie Fowler brought in seven for 101 yards including snagging a tipped ball for a nice TD. Tony Lippett had three for 24, Le’Veon Bell had one for nine, Keith Mumphery had one for five and Dion Sims had one for four.
I believe the receivers would have had better numbers if more passes were on the money and if Andrew Maxwell was doing a better job of finding the open man. I don’t think Maxwell is terrible, and he certainly has his moments, but he feels to me like a MAC-level QB. Maybe it’s the fact that our wounded and replacement-laden o-line just doesn’t give him the protection that he needs, but he just seems stiff, robotic and lead-footed. Maxwell’s two picks on Saturday were both on him – terribly off-target throws that were easy-pickin’ for the defense. He only completed 13 of 29 for 143 yards and a TD. That TD was actually a over-thrown pass barely tipped by Lippett that was caught and run in by Fowler.
I don’t know where we go from here in terms of the QB spot, but I hope the coaches level the playing field and give everyone a chance at QB-1 for 2013. If Maxwell is our man, than so be it, but he doesn’t look Spartan or B1G worthy to me based on his 2012 body of work.
Kicking was better but not perfect. Dan Conroy made four and missed one. Hey, he put up almost half of the Spartan points so I’m not going to get on his case. I do feel like if we need a FG in the bowl game and we are inside of 40 yards, take a delay of game penalty or two to get it back to 45 or more as that is where Conroy is consistent.
Lastly, how about that Michigan State defense! These guys have been great all year and Saturday was another excellent example. The Spartan defense was a punishing, intense, tough and powerful unit throughout the game. Four interceptions including two by Johnny Adams and two forced fumbles (although no fumble recoveries, but still). The defense held the Gophers to seven first downs and 96 yards of total offense including only four net rushing yards, and no TDs. This is a Top Ten defense in the nation, and the best in the B1G, so these guys deserve tons of credit.
Thank you Michigan State for getting it done in the final regular season game and getting bowl-elegible again. As always, I’m proud to be a Spartan even if this year was a challenging and frustrating one from a fan perspective. I’ve never seen so many games so close and yet so far. Five B1G losses by a total of 13 points. Missed FGs and bad calls and all of the whimpering and whining that goes along with that kind of defeat. But that season is behind us now. It’s in the books. Let’s fire up for our bowl game and kick some Big12 (probably) ass in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (most likely)!