Air Force vs Michigan State: What worked and what didn’t for the Spartans

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Sep 19, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; dMichigan State Spartans linebacker Andrew Dowell (5) celebrates fumble recovery during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports


The linebackers have been a pleasant surprise this year after losing Ed Davis for the year. Both of Davis’ replacements, Jon Reschke and Chris Frey, have done a really nice job filling in for the All-Big Ten outside linebacker.

This week it was Darien Harris’ turn to sit out due to injury, only to see his backup hold his own. With Davis and Harris graduating next year, it’s nice to see younger linebackers getting significant time and doing well with their opportunities.

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MSU gave up 279 yards rushing which is basically unheard of around these parts. Riley Bullough had a career high 16 tackles, but a lot of those tackles were six, seven and eight yards past the line of scrimmage. It was an up and down day for the linebackers as they were key in goal-line stands, but also gave up chunk runs.

What went well: Introducing Andrew Dowell

Darien Harris started as usual, but after the first series he sat the rest of the game with an undisclosed injury. Andrew Dowell replaced him and looked a lot more comfortable than he did against Oregon, recording seven tackles and recovering a fumble.

Sure Dowell had played special teams against Western and a handful of snaps at linebacker against Oregon, but this was his first time playing major minutes. Look for him to continue to increase his role, especially against teams like Indiana who spread you around and require fast linebackers. Let’s also hope that Harris is back in the starting lineup next week.

What didn’t: Losing Riley Bullough for the first half next week

Riley Bullough was flagged for targeting and ejected from the game late in the fourth quarter.  Since his ejection took place in the second half of the Air Force game, it will mean he will miss the first half of the Central game next week, as well. It likely won’t cost the Spartans too much, but losing the leader of your defense is never a good thing.

Shane Jones replaced Bullough in the game and look for him to start against Central. Defensive coordinators Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel could also decide to move Reschke over to middle linebacker and start Chris Frey outside. This week’s depth chart will be an interesting one.

Next: Secondary