Stock down: The pass defense
This really must feel like a loop, right? While the defense turned it up after Zips quarterback DJ Irons left the game, there was not much going for the pass defense until then. Akron’s opening drive was 55 yards and put the Zips on the verge of scoring until Cal Haladay recovered a fumble on a complete pass.
Until Irons went down in the second quarter, the Spartan defense would go one possession with lockdown defense, and then surrender a first down or two before grabbing a fumble.
Obviously, the pass defense was good enough to force five sacks as well as hold the Zips to just over 200 yards through the air on 35 attempts. It looked improved over last week, but that is after the less mobile backup, Jeff Undercuffler Jr., came in. Irons led the team in rushing and passing with just over a quarter-and-one-third played.
As a result, I am unsure how much of this improvement came from the staff as compared to the lack of any loss of talent on Akron’s side.
If you asked me after the first quarter of Akron, I would be much closer to the panic button than I am now. There are slight improvements here and there, but there are many of the same core issues.
My biggest concern is the future.
The Spartans play Michael Penix Jr. this week. Penix had the Spartans’ number when he was at Indiana. Penix has passed for 286 and 320 yards in his two starts against the Spartans, in addition to five passing touchdowns and two interceptions. He also completed 20 straight attempts against the Spartans in 2019, back when our total defense was top 10 in the country.
Much like Payton Thorne, I am waiting until this next week to see how it plays out. I am not saying that there is a need to panic, yet. These were bad trends, but it remains to be seen how much of that was due to the MSU secondary rotation to avoid injury.