The Spartans will take this win and move on, but one thing has become clear: offensive inconsistency will hold this team back.
Michigan State entered today’s game ranked No. 78 in the country in yards per game, and they didn’t do themselves any favors against the Hoosiers, gaining a total of 274 yards.
Lewerke threw for 185 yards and a touchdown, while LJ Scott led the Spartans on the ground, gaining 87 yards and a touchdown. The Spartans just couldn’t seem to get much going against Indiana, and periods of inconsistent offense have hurt the team this year. MSU’s offense isn’t built to gain 500 yards a game, and they shouldn’t have to. But when a team that prides itself on running the ball can’t convert on multiple 3rd-and-1 opportunities and only scores 17 points against a now 3-4 Indiana team, there’s a problem.
“We’ve been harping on having a complete from both sides of the ball. Most of the time, it’s been the defense that steps up for us, and the offense is the one that slacks and that was the case again today. It’s upsetting, but you gotta learn from it,” Lewerke said.
There are a few reasons the Spartan offense hasn’t been playing to the level it should be. This is a young team. MSU’s leading receivers against the Hoosiers were: Cody White (Freshman), Darrell Stewart (Sophomore) and LJ Scott (Junior running back). There are going to be growing pains with such a young core of receivers and a sophomore quarterback.
Speaking of sophomore quarterbacks, Lewerke hasn’t been playing to the level we’ve been used to seeing. This is in large part due to weather, conservative play calling and growing pains from a young quarterback, but Lewerke has missed some throws that he should be making. MSU’s defense has done all it can to help the Spartan offense, but now it’s time for the Spartan offense to return the favor.
“Quarterback is a tough position,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “Everybody second guesses you and all that kind of stuff, including coaches. He was off on some throws, but at the end of the game he made the throws he needs to make and he does not get rattled.”
We’ve seen Lewerke have success when the play calling isn’t conservative (i.e. Game-winning touchdown drive, opening drive against Western Michigan, etc.), so why can’t the playbook be open all of the time? Obviously the Big Ten isn’t known for high powered, throw every play offenses, but if a quarterback has success with an expanded playbook, he should be trusted to run those plays. Play calling and the accuracy of Lewerke could be the difference between a New Years Six Bowl and an 8-4 season.
Outside of the Spartan offense, the team looked really good. The defense gave up nine points and allowed the Hoosiers to gain just 158 yards through the air and 95 yards on the ground.
“We expect our offense to score points and when they’re not, we take it upon ourselves to step up and play our game and do what we have to do to win the game,” senior linebacker Chris Frey said. “I think the way our defense was playing and getting the stops, I think that gave our offense confidence late in the game and they stepped their game up and they won the game for us.”
Joe Bachie and Andrew Dowell paced the Spartans in tackles, combining for 23, while Chris Frey and Kenny Willekes put pressure on Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey all game long.
The Spartan defense has proven they are one of the best in the Big Ten and in the country, but the fate of the Spartans could rest on the arm of a sophomore quarterback.
“It’s awesome,” said Brian Allen when asked about being 6-1. “It’s somewhere no one expected us to be. Even people that are Spartan fans expected none of this so we’re happy with where we’re at, and at the same time, there’s a lot to learn still and that’s a positive I think.”
The Spartans will head to Evanston to take on Northwestern next week. The game is set to kick off at 3:30 p.m.
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