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

8 of 9

Sep 12, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Oregon Ducks wide receiver Charles Nelson (6) evades a tackle from Michigan State Spartans safety Montae Nicholson (9) during the first quarter at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive backs

As the weak link in the Spartans’ strong chain, the secondary will always be scrutinized heavily. The back-end held up in the end — the MSU defense only allowed 21 points against a very potent offense, while the other seven points came on a punt return.

Must Read: 

There were times it got dicey, though, and a lot of that had to do with losing starting cornerback Vayante Copeland. He was sorely missed and has clearly become MSU’s number one corner.

What went well: Interceptions

Winning the turnover battle is key in any game, but especially in a game against a quality team like Oregon.

Interceptions by Montae Nicholson and RJ Williamson came on downfield passes that could have broken the Spartans’ back had they been completed. Both were high-level interceptions utilizing great ball skills. The book on MSU’s defense says that the safeties can be exploited deep down field, but this was not the case on Saturday night.

What didn’t: Backup CBs and open-field tackling

After Vayante Copeland and Demetrious Cox, things get a little scary at the cornerback position for MSU. The next three up are Arjen Colquhoun, Jermaine Edmondson, and Darien Hicks.

None of them looked particularly good against Oregon and Colquhoun and Edmondson looked particularly bad at times. When Copeland went down and Cox getting a rest, it was Colquhoun and Edmondson on the outside.

Colquhoun was burned on a fade in the back of the end zone to bring Oregon within three points. Edmondson missed tackles when he had chances to keep the Ducks behind the first down marker.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only one missing open field tackles in the secondary. Trusted starting safeties Nicholson and Williamson missed several tackles all over the place. They took poor pursuit angles and lost contain on Oregon receivers.

The safeties are also responsible for coming up to support on bubble screens and flare screens and we have mentioned how successful Oregon was on those plays. Williamson had similar trouble last year and was benched for a couple of games.

Nicholson was his replacement. Those two have to get it cleaned up before Indiana and especially before Ohio State and the Braxton Miller show.

Next: Special teams