Michigan State Football: What worked and what didn’t against Central Michigan

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Sep 26, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive lineman Malik McDowell (4) breaks though the Central Michigan offensive line during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 30-10. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Line

Unlike the Michigan State offensive line, the defensive line continues to live up to the hype. There is not a defensive line in the country — including Ohio State‘s — that I would trade MSU’s for.

Related: MSU Football: Next man up at every position

There are bigger stars around the country — Joey Bosa from OSU and Robert Nkemdiche from Ole Miss, to name two — but across the line and into the two deep, I would take MSU’s over any team’s in any league.

Coach Mark Dantonio was not pleased with the pressure produced in the first half, but they made up for it in the second half. After registering zero sacks in the Air Force game, the defensive line was in on four sacks against Central.

What went well: Shilique “You better hold me” Calhoun

In the Oregon game, Shilique Calhoun was practically getting tackled on every play. He got just one holding call, but I guess the refs figured they couldn’t call it every time. They should have.

In the Western game, the only way the right tackle could hold off Calhoun was to shove his hands up his face mask — he got called for that twice.

Well, Calhoun was at it again this week against Central. At a time when MSU needed a spark, Calhoun provided one when he forced a holding call against Central’s left tackle and then the very next play beat him again for his third sack of the game. Calhoun was special on Saturday, let’s see if he can keep it up the rest of the season.

What didn’t: Third-and-long (first half)

With the secondary struggling a bit, the defensive line has to help out by constantly pressuring the quarterback. This is especially true on third-and-long. These are obvious passing plays and the defensive can be a little less disciplined when it comes to protecting against the run.

However, Central’s quarterback, Cooper Rush, had plenty of time to pick out guys on crossing routes on third and long in the first half. MSU’s defense is predicated on the opposing team either not having an elite quarterback or if it has an elite quarterback not giving them time to make the throws.

Cooper Rush is a very good quarterback — probably not elite, but darn good — and he had too much time to throw on third-and-long. Michigan State needs to get off of the field on third down and especially third and long. It impacts both the defense and the offense when the offense gets fewer opportunities to get in a rhythm.

Michigan State’s D-line is its biggest asset, and it needs to step up and be disruptive through the entire game.

Next: Linebackers