Since I’m a little bit more behind schedule for posting due to my recent travels, I’m going to combine both my reactions as well as statistical analysis in the same post. This way, I will hopefully be able to get to a Stanford pregame post within the next couple of days.
Anyways, this was a game that, truthfully, I thought we would lose. Definitely not in the fashion that we did, but I felt that our rushing defense was still far too unproven to hold up against the rushing attack of Michigan State. I was right and wrong there. We did lose, but it wasn’t because of the Spartan rushing attack.
The sad truth is that we are 1-2 and we got there by awful mistakes. They are mistakes that young teams make. They are mistakes that teams playing with on-the-road-nerves make. They are mistakes that teams knowing they have a huge losing monkey on their backs make.
You can take your picks of which mistake you wish to highlight against the Spartans. It could be ND failing to close yet another game and allowing the Spartans to tie the game up. You could point to a seemingly disciplined team acting completely out of character and raking up penalties at the worst possible times. We can blame Dayne Crist being horribly inaccurate for a decent portion of the game. You can replay the fake field goal ad nauseum, as I did, and sake your head as Carlo Calabrese and Harrison Smith fell all over each other to spring an open receiver. Hell, we can even wonder what in the hell is wrong with Michael Floyd as he continues to drop and fumble balls uncharacteristically.
My notes are filled with marks in which we could’ve drastically changed the direction of the game. My notes are also filled with marks in which Michigan State could’ve completely taken us out of the game.
I’m not trying to make excuses for the teams because we could honestly just as easily be 3-0 if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot; however, the reality is that this team still doesn’t have it together yet. There are flashes of hope, but we haven’t had the complete game in which we’ve executed, not simply playing hard, but executing for all four quarters.
Every game is getting better in its own way. Despite Floyd’s issues, he definitely had marked improvement in this game. I’m still a bit worried about what is going on in his head, but Floyd had moments were he finally looked like the Cannon. Theo Riddick looked like a WR and a damn good one at that. If he didn’t get a game ball for his performance, it would be a crime. His continued improvement will force defenses to respect him and that just means more looks for Floyd and Jones.
On the defensive side, I was floored by our rushing defense. We still lack the side-to-side speed, but we are no longer getting steamrolled up the middle. Tackling has definitely improved, and players are not getting caught out of position nearly as often as we’ve seen in the past. T’eo was a wrecking ball for most of the game, even though he did get burned going for a KO instead of wrapping up behind the line (next play was a Spartan TD as well). And Gary Gray has to be the best surprise of the year so far on defense. He was breaking up passes and making tackles in space like crazy.
There are positives. This situation isn’t as bleak as our record makes things seem. It sucks all the same, but I’m either numb to heartbreaking losses at this point or I feel like we are close to turning the corner. God, I hope it’s the later…
Also, my piece on the fake FG: crying about a delay of game is a fool’s errand in my opinion. I watched the play several times at full speed and it is really hard to tell that the snap was late. Second, we were prepped for it. Calabrese just didn’t fully jam his man and it helped to complete the pick of both him and Smith to fall all over each other. That’s exactly how that play is drawn up, tip your hat, we got burned.
Next Page: By the Numbers