It might not have been easy, or even remotely pretty, but number 12 Michigan State survived their season opener against Utah State on Friday night. There’s a saying, somewhat negative, which indicates what can go wrong, will go wrong. And that’s what happened during Friday night’s game. Turnovers and missed scoring chances on offense, and penalties on both sides of the ball allowed Utah State to stay in the game late. Utah’s high-tempo offense made big plays against Michigan’s defense. Utah returned an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter to pull within a score, then scored the go-ahead TD with 5:05 to play.
Even though Michigan was successful in winning the game, is this an indicator of what their season will look like? Brian Lewerke looked sharp in the first half, guiding Michigan State’s offense to two scores and completing 13-for-19 passes for 190 yards. However, he threw a pass for freshman receiver Jalen Nailor in the third quarter, which was intercepted by Utah’s Gaje Ferguson, and then returned 40 yards for a touchdown.
Michigan State’s passing game is actually in really good shape. There is clear chemistry between Lewerke and his three wideouts – Cody White, Darrell Stewart Jr. and Felton Davis III. Maybe it was Week 1 jitters, but they’re definitely not playing like its midseason. Hopefully, as the season goes on, this group will show their true talent. Lewerke is the franchise here. Michigan State was able to protect him last year, allowing just 1.8 sacks per game. But the protection has to be better than it was Friday night for many reasons – including givingLewerke a chance to finish out the season.
While this might not be an indicator of what their season will look like, it’s actual history repeating itself. This time of year is always hard for the Spartans. For whatever reason, Mark Dantonio’s teams always look this way in September. If the Spartan’s want to finish better than fourth in the East Division, the push by their offensive line simply won’t cut it. LJ Scott didn’t have a carry for more than 4 yards until his 10th carry. He didn’t have a rush of more than 7 yards until his 16th attempt — and, for the most part, he had nowhere to go.
Utah State’s Jordan Love turned out to be a decent quarterback. Which was a pain to defend. And after a rough start, Michigan State’s defense got a handle on things for a while. Including pressure from Jacob Panasiuk, which created an interception that allowed Michigan State to get out in front. But while Utah couldn’t run the football effectively in the traditional sense, they found another way to get through. They moved it. They moved it when Michigan State needed a stop to win the game.
Even though Michigan State won the game, they didn’t exactly play like winners. As I said, this might not be an indication of what the season will look like, but it doesn’t necessarily bode well for the Spartans. Hopefully, it is just Week 1 jitters and they can bring their gameplay up for the remainder of the season.