Michigan State vs Oregon: Rapid reactions after big win


The stage was set for the Michigan State vs Oregon game as the atmosphere was unreal and both the Spartans and Ducks had been waiting for this game for a year now.

More from Spartans Football

Michigan State was out for revenge on last year’s loss in Eugene, Oregon, while the Ducks wanted to make it two wins in a row against the Spartans. Only one team could have their way and luckily for the Spartans, it was them.

Watching the game live and in person was one of the coolest experiences out there for a college football fan as the crowd was electric and the players on the field were feeding off the energy.

Many things come to mind after the victory, good and bad, and I’m here to give instant reactions to everything that comes to mind.

Let’s start with the bad news first.

The Bad

Special teams: OK, it can’t get much worse than this. The Spartans’ special teams units, both punt and kick coverage, are poor — there’s no other way to put it. We can sit here and make excuses for why Oregon became the second team in as many weeks to score a punt or kick return for a touchdown against MSU, but that would get us nowhere.

Sep 12, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Oregon Ducks wide receiver Byron Marshall (9) makes a touchdown catch against Michigan State Spartans cornerback Arjen Colquhoun (36) during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Either the Spartans need to drill this in practice non-stop, or there need to be some changes because, other than Jake Hartbarger, the special teams play has been tough to watch. Yes, that included Michael Geiger as well.

Short passes: Granted, it seemed like every single pass play the Ducks had was a screen, initiated by illegal blocking before the pass. However, every pass was a screen, so it should have been picked up by the defense and relaxed coverage should not have happened — MSU should have pressed.

It was clear that Vernon Adams couldn’t throw the deep ball, only completing one big one on fourth down inside the five-yard-line, and when he did, he threw two interceptions. However, he nickel-and-dimed the Spartans all day for 309 passing yards.

Tackling, tackling, tackling: Wow, was this poor all night long. One guy who really impressed me with his open-field tackling was Vayante Copeland — he showed no fear with bruising running back Royce Freeman running right at him. Other than that, it was atrocious.

Darien Harris can fly to the ball, but he slipped off potential tackles constantly, same with Demetrious Cox and a handful of other members of the secondary/linebacking corps. This needs to improve if the Spartans want to win a Big Ten title.

The Good

Vayante Copland, Montae Nicholson: I continue to be impressed by these two young guys. Copland was probably my MVP of the secondary all night as he made solid tackles in the open field, as mentioned above, and the ball was rarely thrown his way on a deep pass — which means you’re doing something right as a corner.

Nicholson had a big interception in which he ripped the ball away from the receiver and returned it about 30 yards. Overall, the secondary was solid on the deep ball and they made Adams work for every pass over 10 yards that he attempted — he usually couldn’t find an open man so he was flushed out of the pocket by the front-four.

The run game: L.J. Scott became an instant hero tonight. Besides scoring the winning touchdown, he racked up 77 yards and added his first career score to the record books. A long, prosperous career in the green and white is in his future.

Sep 12, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back LJ Scott (3) runs for a touchdown against the Oregon Ducks during the fourth quarter at Spartan Stadium. Spartans beat the Ducks 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Madre London broke a huge 62-yard-run on the Spartans’ first drive, hitting the hole hard and speeding down the field for a big gain. He finished the game leading all rushers with 103 yards on 18 carries. He continues to be the No. 1 option.

Offensive/Defensive lines: On offense, I was pleasantly surprised with the play of Manny Machado after he came in for Kodi Kieler following an injury to the tackle. He didn’t allow a sack and the big run play by Scott in the fourth quarter was through his hole. The offensive line, as a whole, was solid throughout.

Defensively, Shilique Calhoun looks more like a first-round draft pick every day. When the secondary was doing its job with the deep routes, the front-four were putting major pressure on Vernon Adams and that led to four sacks. Lawrence Thomas, Joel Heath, Demetrius Cooper, Craig Evans and Malik McDowell all played a great game.

Chris Frey, Riley Bullough: Chris Frey was constantly subbing in and out of the game, but when he was in there, you could tell he was making the most of his opportunity, flying all over the field and making big plays. He’s going to be on the field more often than not in the next few weeks.

Riley Bullough proves that talent runs in the blood. He looks more and more like his older brother every day and he brings much-needed energy to the defensive side of the ball. He’s one of those guys who you can always feel good about leading the defense. He currently has 23 tackles and 3.0 sacks on the year.

Next: MSU Football: Game by game predictions for 2015