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Sparty’s defense proves to be the difference against Boise State

Boise State v Michigan State Getty Images

Unless you noticed the different uniforms, stadium and names, you could have flipped on tonight’s game between No. 13 Michigan State and No. 24 Boise State and thought, even if only briefly, that you were watching a replay of Thursday’s game between South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Down to the 17-13 final score, tonight’s season opener in East Lansing shared a few qualities from the SEC’s weeknight introduction: turnovers, huge momentum swings, but little in the way of effective passing games. But, my oh my, can Spartans running back Le’Veon Bell carry the rock. Fourty-four times, in fact, for 210 yards — four more yards than Boise State had all night.

Which leads me to the real difference in tonight’s game: Michigan State’s defense. It was everything as advertised. Sparty kept Boise State to just 37 yards rushing, less than 50 percent completion percentage and no offensive touchdowns. The only time the Broncos found the end zone all night was on a Jeremy Ioane interception returned 43 yards for a touchdown. It was one of three picks made by Boise on the night.

So, yes, Andrew Maxwell struggled mightily at times in his first start replacing Kirk Cousins. That’s where Bell came in to save the day, but that needs to change eventually. Even at nearly 250 pounds, Bell can’t realistically average 40 carries a game. No one can.

Sure, Maxwell needs to improve, but he needs help too. Sparty’s O-line underachieved against an unproven Broncos D-line, and the passing game needs a new name outside of Bell (six catches for 55 yards) and tight end Dion Sims (seven grabs for 65 yards).

The turnover at quarterback and receiver was a concern heading into tonight, and it was certainly validated, but it’s impossible to know just where Michigan State stacks up in the Big Ten Legends division. Not tonight, anyway. For one, no one else in the Big Ten has played yet, but like we mentioned in the Wazzu-BYU post game report, opening week games are terrible gauges for the rest of the season.

All anyone really knows about Michigan State is the defense is much farther along than the offense — but that was expected. What wasn’t so much was how close Boise State kept the score. Again, that’s a tribute to Chris Petersen. Simply put, the guy is one of the best damn coaches in the country.

Think about it. Boise State lost 17 starters from a group that won 50 games together — though it should be pointed out that many on the field tonight played a role in those wins — and (again) somehow managed* to hang with a supposedly superior opponent without a single offensive touchdown.

(*Something about Michigan State turning the ball over four times.)

But I digress…

Michigan State’s defense is good enough by itself to give Mark Dantonio‘s team a shot at a Big Ten title. The focus for the Spartans now centralizes on making a young offense more cohesive.

That simply comes with time. When you have a defense like Michigan State does, that’s a luxury you actually do possess.

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12 Responses to “Sparty’s defense proves to be the difference against Boise State”
  1. manik56 says: Sep 1, 2012 12:39 AM

    We all know they aren’t winning the B1G West, but for the sake of accuracy (ironic I know) Minnesota did play (and win) Thursday night.

  2. bender4700 says: Sep 1, 2012 1:51 AM

    No Boise fans? No excuses?

    Michigan State has gotten entirely too much hype this off season. Their D is solid, great RB in Bell, but that QB will screw it up, rookie mistakes, and he never seemed comfortable. He kept just tossing the ball up as he was getting hit.

    Michigan State will finish 3rd or 4th in the Legends Division.

    Funny enough manik56, what is the B1G West? Big Ten: Legends and Leaders division.

    2nd time in a couple weeks someone tried to correct the staff incorrectly.

    Minnesota did play yes, but come on, like they’ll factor into the final standings anyway. Sort of like Illinois. They basically have 6th place locked up.

    Boise can kiss the season goodbye. No BCS title, BCS bowl berth is all but gone (considering they were 24th before the loss), not likely they will gain much ground beating the MWC without TCU. They need to hope for bowl or something. Chris Petersen needs to take a top level job. PAC-12, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, or ACC. Go there Chris. Anywhere. Boise had a great run, but kids needed to get over the hump aren’t going to go there knowing that a single game will decide whether they get some bragging rights or they play 2nd tier football.

    Tonight’s game was clear evidence pre-season rankings are just ridiculous. Boise wasn’t a 24th ranked team. Played well, but Michigan State gave them what, 4 turn overs and only managed 13 points, 6 that didn’t come against the MSU D. MSU is overrated. You don’t lose a QB like Cousin’s, who is actually playing really well in Washington and could end up being traded fairly soon. You lose a guy like that, replace him with a nervous, inaccurate, and turnover magnet QB and be better than two teams with QBs that started for 2 straight years. (Nebraska and Michigan).

  3. sparty0n says: Sep 1, 2012 2:35 AM

    “Michigan State will finish 3rd or 4th in the Legends Division”

    ummm, not gonna happen

  4. pricecube says: Sep 1, 2012 3:48 AM

    I thought both teams looked good. The Broncos did well for a rebuilding year IMO. Bell is a special RB. I expect he will be in the NFL soon.

  5. scoregasmic says: Sep 1, 2012 4:31 AM

    I thought this was a perfect example of why everyone should be scared of MSU…that defense is phenomenal, bell is going to be a heisman candidate, maxwell and the wide recovers got off to a bad start yes, but what did you expect? It was the first game, Kirk cousins didn’t come out and light it up his first game…maxwell has lots more talent than Kirk he just needs to fine tune some things, I’ll admit he lacks where Kirk didn’t in that leadership quality but he’s going to be good and when he and the receivers start clicking…look out

  6. cedaly1968 says: Sep 1, 2012 6:18 AM

    You know he wanted to say it, the author tried so hard but couldn’t bring himself to do it. Michigan State was “Saved by the Bell” Maybe they will call him Slater from now on… LOL. Go Bucks!

  7. wabbitslayer says: Sep 1, 2012 7:47 AM

    I thought the difference might have been the successful 4th quarter 4th and 1 conversion by the Broncs that was nullified b/c a timeout was supposedly called by MSU before the snap.

    No replays or cameras on whoever called it though, guess we’ll have to take the refs’s word for it. (Was this the same guy that worked the Vandy-USC game???)

  8. Ben Kercheval says: Sep 1, 2012 8:28 AM

    “the author tried so hard but couldn’t bring himself to do it. Michigan State was “Saved by the Bell”

    Ha! I wish I was that clever.

  9. rubbernilly says: Sep 1, 2012 8:37 AM

    bender said:
    Funny enough manik56, what is the B1G West? Big Ten: Legends and Leaders division.

    2nd time in a couple weeks someone tried to correct the staff incorrectly.

    I don’t think manik forgot the names of the divisions. I think his point was that no one likes the names “Leaders” and “Legends.” It’s kind of like people referring to D1AA instead of FCS, and D1 (or D1A) instead of FBS, or BcS instead of BCS.

  10. ksctychiefs says: Sep 1, 2012 11:58 AM

    a ‘rebuilding ‘ bsu team with a bunch of ‘no names’ holds on for 4 qtrs ,on the road,AT sparty(very noisy),and the 1st season game……sparty was really hard pressed to hang on for the ‘w’….i would say this boise team is going to gel real fast and be very good as recent teams…..other than the sparty running back(a real gem!!) msu couldnt put put boise away….

  11. fcmlefty1 says: Sep 1, 2012 5:07 PM

    Everybody will write off Boise after this one, but that will be a mistake. If they can now rattle off 11 in a row, they’ll be in a BCS bowl. An 11-1 Boise will be ranked 16th or above, and I highly doubt anybody from the Big East will be ranked that high at the end of the season. That meets the qualifications for a BCS bowl.

  12. brutusbuckeye2011 says: Sep 2, 2012 2:42 PM

    MSU’s defense looked good. Bell is good enough to play for anybody. I doubt that MSU will do as well in 2012 as they did last year. I don’t base my statement just on their losing Kirk Cousins. The offense line had serious problems keeping the Boise defense out of the backfield.

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