From ESPN Sportsnation
The Spartans kicked off their season in winning fashion yesterday defeating Boise State 17-13 under the lights. The Spartan performance was far from impressive though. Despite doubling the Broncos in both total offense and time of possession, Michigan State needed a late 4th quarter drive to pull off the victory.
Despite the shaky performance from the Spartans, there were definitely some positives to take away from the game. Unfortunately, there are certainly a lot of things the Spartans need to improve on if they want to become Big Ten Champs.
I think this one pretty much goes without saying. Le'Veon Bell was by far the best player on the field Friday night totaling 210 yards rushing on 44 carries. He also had 6 receptions for 55 yards as well as the Spartan's only two TDs. He also had a pair of highlight-reel runs, including a play where he leaped over Boise defender Jeremy Ioane en route to a 23 yard run. Bell was a monster from start to finish for the Spartans and leaped himself into the Heisman race this year, literally.
It was no secret that there were a lot of concerns about the Spartan passing offense coming into this season. Unfortunately, those concerns turned into reality for MSU as the passing game was ineffective for the most part. Sims was the lone bright spot for the passing game last night, hauling in 7 receptions for 65 yards. The most impressive part was all 7 receptions resulted in Michigan State first downs, and 5 were 3rd down conversions. Sims appeared to be the only target Maxwell was comfortable throwing to and he already has appeared to emerge as the security valve that Maxwell needs.
There was a ton of hype heading into this season about the MSU Defense, and they definitely lived up to it last night. The Boise State offense really had no success the entire night, as they totaled only 205 yards of offense. The defense held Boise State to 6 points, with Boise State's only TD coming from their own defense. MSU shut out the Boise State offense in the second half which was ultimately the reason why the Spartans won the game. My only complaint about the D was that they failed to register a sack and failed to put consistent pressure on Boise, but I'm confident that will change in the future.
Maxwell's much anticipated debut was one that most Spartans will want to forget about. After a nice opening TD drive, Maxwell had a perfect pass go through the hands of WR Tony Lippett and into the hands of a Boise State defender. Maxwell never seemed to recover in the 1st half throwing two more poor balls, one resulting in a Boise State pick six. The encouraging part for Maxwell was his 2nd half performance. He was by no means spectacular, but he made much better decisions with the football going 11-16 for 152 yards. That second half for Maxwell could really benefit him down the road as they head into Big Ten play.
The Wide Receivers
After losing their top 3 WRs last season, the WR position was another concern heading into the season for the Spartans. The Spartan WRs only accounted for 8 of the 22 receptions for MSU. Tony Lippett especially struggled for MSU. He dropped a perfect pass from Maxwell which led to an INT for Boise, and fumbled the ball away killing a potential scoring drive for MSU. It was also interesting that DeAnthony Arnett was hardly on the field for the Spartans last night. He was talked about as being the potential best WR for MSU but he only entered the game a few times last night. Bennie Fowler had a couple nice receptions for the Spartans, but overall, MSU WRs must improve dramatically.
Now, this may seem harsh to put Gholston as a negative last night since the D played great as a unit. He came out very strong batting down two balls in the first 2 possessions. However, from that point on, he really became a non-factor for MSU, and did not have a tackle last night. In his defense, Boise State used a lot of quick 3 step drops yesterday which didn't give the pass rush a whole lot of time to wreak havoc. Gholston has all the abilities in the world and has the talent to become one of the best players in college football, but he needs to be consistent for the Spartan D to have success in Big Ten play.
The Spartans certainly have a lot work and improving to do this upcoming week. But beating Boise State is something that not a lot of teams have been able to do in the past 5 years and is something the Spartans can build on as they fight for the Big Ten Championship.