Michigan State Football: What worked and didn’t work against Western

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Sep 4, 2015; Kalamazoo, MI, USA; Western Michigan Broncos quarterback Zach Terrell (11) is sacked by Michigan State Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun (89) during the 2nd half of a game at Waldo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Line

If there is one unit that might be better than the offensive line, it’s the defensive line. For most of the game, the defensive line lived up to its billing.

What went well: QB pressure

Four of MSU’s seven sacks were accounted for by the defensive line — two by ends Shilique Calhoun and Demetrius Cooper and two by tackles Joel Heath and Malik McDowell.

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Jan 1, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun (89) celebrates his sack of Baylor Bears quarterback Bryce Petty (not pictured) in the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Bears 42-41. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

But even a couple of linebacker Riley Bullough’s sacks came after Western’s quarterback was flushed from the pocket from interior pressure. McDowell was basically unblockable. We’ll have to see if that holds up against Big Ten offensive lines, but it was an incredible display of talent, strength and athleticism.

In addition, Calhoun drew two 15-yard hands to the face penalties as the Western’s right tackle struggled to keep him away from the quarterback. Finally, Lawrence Thomas tipped the ball that led to the Montae Nicholson interception which led to MSU’s first touchdown.

What didn’t: Depth

The starters for the defensive line played the majority of the game. While we hope to see Calhoun and company sitting down by the fourth quarter against MAC competition, this was not the case.

This extensive play led to fatigue in the fourth quarter. The excellent pressure in the first three quarters was largely absent in the fourth quarter. Though Demetrius Cooper, Damon Knox, Montez Sweat, Craig Evans and Evan Jones all got playing time.

Besides Cooper there was a significant dropoff in play when the starters went out. Depth was a big problem against Oregon as the Spartans seemed to wear down by the middle of the third quarter in Eugene, Oregon, last year. More guys will have to play and play well against the up-tempo Ducks this week.

Next: Linebackers