Congrats to Coach Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans for their win in the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. That’s six bowls in a row for Coach D. and back-to-back post-season wins. 2012 was a tough year for the Spartans (and Spartan fans), but it’s certainly nice to go out on a bowl win.
I must admit that I didn’t watch the game live because it kicked-off at 10:15pm and I had to get up early to drive 850 miles the next morning. I got up before dawn, checked the score and boy was I happy. I went to bed hoping for the best but fearing the worst. And it was only fitting that it was a one point win. Of course it was.
When I got home I watched the game on WatchESPN (awesome app, btw) and I’m kind of glad I knew the outcome while I watched otherwise I would have been going nuts with the lack of offense throughout most of the game. So, let’s talk about the offense.
Le’Veon Bell! What a beast. He pounded away in the first half but seemed to only be able to pick up scraps and bit here and there. I will say this for TCU, they have a great defense and they know how to tackle. Bell said he was going to run the ball down their throat and that is exactly what he did. He just kept coming and in the second half it started to pay off. Bell had 32 carries for 145 yards and a TD, two receptions for 13 yards and, holy shit, a pass for 29 yards. I was waiting for him to kick a field-goal or PAT! I love this guy and I’m saddened by the fact that his true breakout season was a year when MSU’s offense was well below average. I hope he comes back for his senior year but I fear he’s off to the pros.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Connor Cook and Andrew Maxwell splitting time at QB. Maxwell has simply not been as effective as we had hoped, and he certainly has not filled the void left by Kirk Cousins. And when Maxwell couldn’t seem to get the Spartans moving (at all), why not try something new? And although neither of their stats were awesome, Cook seemed to move the Spartans forward. He seemed to foster some momentum and he was able to make things happen. Maxwell seemed to get chased around mostly.
Maxwell went 6-15 for 28 yards. There was a streak there where he was almost picked off on three of his throws, and then that was was followed by Maxwell getting sacked or pressured in to throwing it away. Cook went 4-11 for 47 yards and a TD. Add in Bell’s 29 yard toss and you have a total of 104 yards in the air. Pretty terrible. Again, a lot of credit to TCU’s defense, they applied a lot of pressure on the QB and had excellent coverage. State needs massive improvement in this area moving in to 2013 and I’m starting to think that maybe Connor Cook is the guy to lead the way.
Special teams had a great day. Hey Dan Conroy, thank you. You made every PAT this season but you missed a bunch of mid-length FGs which was especially painful when you teams average loss in B1G play was less than three points. But you made the game winner in your final game as a Spartan and that goes a long way towards forgetting those misses.
Oh, and Mike Sadler, with one exception, your punting was awesome. You punted 11 times! Who’s ever heard of a team that punts 11 times and wins? Ten of those punts were high, long and glorious, especially the one that the Horned Frogs muffed which led to the second Spartan TD. And I think we have you for two more years!
For all of the offensive struggles this year, the Spartan defense has been outstanding. A top ten unit all season long, they played as well as any team in the NCAA. This defense is the only reason the 2012 Spartans didn’t have an awful season. Hat’s off to William Gholston for four solo tackles, five assists and one sack. Gholston brought pressure and intensity throughout the game. The defense overall looked really, really good with excellent play by many players. And how about Isaiah Lewis‘ interception? Loved that.
The game was very evenly matched with both teams in it right up until the clock ran out. The first half was a bit of a slog for the Spartan faithful, but the second half saw greater intensity, better execution and a flat-out will to win. I’m really happy that Michigan State won this game. As I said, it was a tough year and ending it on a bowl loss would have been bad.
This team is very good, there is just something very wrong with the offense that the coaching staff needs to figure out and fix for 2013. Maybe it’s Maxwell? Maybe it’s the receivers? Maybe it’s the play calling? More likely, it’s a bit of everything. We will likely not have Le’Veon Bell to save our bacon next year, so we need to get it sorted out. The Spartans will not be ranked in the pre-season, and they will be underdogs in most games, and that’s just the way I like it.
Enjoy the winter Spartans and Spartan Nation, and let’s get fired up for the spring when we get our next dose of college football.