Michigan State vs Oregon: What worked and what didn’t against the Ducks

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Sep 12, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. (85) breaks a tackle from Oregon Ducks linebacker Joe Walker (35) during the first quarter at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receivers

Six different Spartans caught the ball for a total of 192 receiving yards, but only three of those were wide receivers. Moreover, Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings were the only wide receivers to catch the ball for positive yardage.

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This is an excellent sign for two senior receivers who MSU needed to be clutch guys, but MSU needs more production from a third or fourth guy to keep the offense dynamic.

What went well: Finding the go-to guy

In each of the past three seasons, MSU has found a wide receiver that went from solid to spectacular — from B.J. Cunningham to Bennie Fowler to Tony Lippett. Their transitions all led to a shot at the NFL.

Sep 12, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Connor Cook (18) celebrates with wide receiver Aaron Burbridge (16) during the fourth quarter against the Oregon Ducks at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans beat the Ducks 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Burbridge is hoping for the same transition, as is Michigan State. Well, Burbridge is well on his way to going from solid to spectacular. His confidence is clearly soaring as is Cook’s confidence in him. Burbridge is getting great separation, he’s going up and getting the ball, and he isn’t dropping much of anything thrown his way.

The 4th & 6 catch he made was mostly a great pass by Cook, but he was able to get behind two defenders and make a very good catch in a pressure situation. Look for Cook to search for him more and more.

What didn’t: Blocking the bubble screen

Oregon made a living on the bubble screen and flare screen against the Spartans. A key to making that play work is wide receiver blocking — you have to get the first guy blocked to let the receivers speed and shiftiness take over from there.

Michigan State hung R.J. Shelton out to dry with the bubble screen — he ended up with 2 receptions for -1 yards. Last year, Keith Mumphrey was an excellent blocker on run plays, jet sweeps and bubble screens.

So far Burbridge, Kings and the rest have not been able to keep Shelton clean enough to get his momentum going on the bubble screen. If MSU wants to keep that play in its playbook, the wide receivers have to do a much better job of holding their blocks.

Next: Tight ends