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

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Sep 12, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (3) is sacked by Michigan State Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun (89) at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive line

This unit is looking like it will live up to its hype as the star unit on the squad. There are at least three NFL players on this line and if Malik McDowell keeps progressing, he will be a first-round pick by the end of his junior year.

Related: MSU Football: Next man up at every position

In addition to the starters showing out well, both Demtrius Cooper and Craig Evans were beasts. The Spartans played eight defensive linemen in the game.

What went well: Hitting the QB

The defensive line was in on all four of MSU’s sacks with Shilique Calhoun and Lawrence Thomas each getting one and Demetrius Cooper and Craig Evans chipping in with a half-sack each. But beyond the sacks, the D-line also got a lot of hits on the quarterback.

They hit him as he threw, they hit him when Adams scrambled, they hit him on designed runs. And when these young men hit you, it’s no joke, they bring the pain.

All that wear and tear must have had an impact on him. It’s that kind of punishment that can lead to the overthrow on the wide open receiver in the fourth quarter that we saw from Vernon Adams.

What didn’t: Fourth quarter pressure

Once again, as was the case against Western, the line was not able to get enough pressure in the fourth quarter. There were times MSU was only rushing three, but with the talent on that line, one would still expect pressure to get there eventually.

There were some plays where Adams stood in the pocket for what seemed like ages. To be fair, with an elusive quarterback, the line must be able to get pressure without losing contain.

Additionally, the flare screen to the wide receiver coming in motion was so effective, the ends had to play defense on that by fanning out and attempting to block the pass. It was a good in-game adjustment, but it meant that the pass rush had to suffer a bit.

Defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett would love for them to get pressure on the QB without having to blitz so he can protect his shaky secondary. Seeing that they weren’t getting the pressure, he elected to blitz on a key third down to try to seal the game.

It worked, but the D-line sort of forced his hand.

Next: Linebackers