For the second straight week, the Michigan State football game experienced a delay due to inclement weather around the area. And after 67 minutes of delay, which also included an appearance by Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo, urging the students to seek shelter from the weather, the game finally got under way.
However, also happening for the second straight week, the Michigan State offense struggled to do much of anything. In a game that featured five different quarterbacks (three for MSU, two for USF), Michigan State (2-0) eventually grinded out a 21-6 victory over South Florida (0-2).
As for the Michigan State quarterback situation though, which much has been made of this season, Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio made a change Saturday, putting red shirt sophomore Connor Cook in as starter, and having red shirt freshman Tyler O’Connor available as backup.
Unfortunately for Michigan State though, the change at the quarterback position did a whole lot of nothing for them, as stalled drives led to several more Mike Sadler punts early on.
However, the Michigan State defense once again played spectacular, forcing South Florida into numerous 3-and-outs and several punts of their own.
The game stayed scoreless well into the second quarter before any real scoring threat came to play. That is until red shirt freshman Tyler O’Connor was inserted into the game and moved the offense well, all the way down to the 3 yard line, before stalling and bringing out kicker Kevin Muma for a pedestrian 25 yard field goal attempt, which he then missed.
Shilique Calhoun (89) celebrates with teammate Tawain Jones (34) after returning a fumble for a touchdown. (Photo by Mike Carter/USA Today Sports)
However, on the very next play, Michigan State senior defensive tackle Tyler Hoover got to South Florida senior quarterback Bobby Evald, forcing a fumble, which was then subsequently scooped up by sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun, who ran it in from 4 yards out for his 2nd touchdown of the season, putting his team up 7-0 with 9:30 to go in the game.
From there, a methodical South Florida offensive attack wore down the Michigan State defense, allowing them to get two field goals late in the first half to pull within one, making it a 7-6 Michigan State lead at halftime.
When Michigan State came out in the 2nd half, to everyone’s surprise, Andrew Maxwell was the one who was taking snaps under center, which he would do for the remainder of the 3rd quarter.
“There are not many people in this world like Andrew Maxwell,” Dantonio said. “The way he handled things, not many people could have handled it like that and that’s why I went back with him in the 2nd half. I feel like I owe him as a man and a coach.”
Still, despite handing the keys back over to Maxwell, the offense continued to sputter.
But Shilique Calhoun didn’t.
Once again, Calhoun found himself in the end zone after intercepting a tipped pass and running it back 56 yards to give Michigan State a 14-6 lead with 6:51 to go in the 3rd. The touchdown gave Calhoun his third touchdown of the season, giving him a 3-1 advantage in touchdowns over the entire Michigan State offense.
“Shilique, he’s our running back of the defense, I guess,” defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. “Just hand it off to him.”
The Michigan State offense did draw closer to Calhoun though later in the game, when Jeremy Langford ran it in from 2 yards out to cap a 33 yard scoring drive to put Michigan State on top 21-6 with 10:12 to go in the game, where the score would stay from there on out.
At the end of the day, Michigan State comes away from this game pretty much in the exact same place they were last week. And that is that the offense is just absolutely terrible and hard to watch at times.
However, as for the defense, that’s a different story.
“Let’s talk about the defense,” Dantonio joked when the media continued to ask questions about quarterbacks. “Did you see Shilique Calhoun run those two things back? Did you see our sacks? We played outstanding.”
On the flip side of the coin tough, the side Dantonio is tired of talking about, the offense did very little. And none so much as the quarterbacks. Here are their putrid numbers.
Andrew Maxwell: 4-9, 40 yards
Connor Cook: 6-11, 32 yards
Tyler O’Connor: 2-4, 22 yards
And for any potential Damion Terry reps on Saturday, Dantonio laid that notion to rest really quick.
“He had strep throat this week and then he popped his thumb out of place,” Dantonio said. “He didn’t get any reps all week so that’s why he didn’t play.”
Nevertheless, even though Michigan State has failed to impress their fans much in these first two game, things could be worse as Coach Dantonio pointed out.
“Bottom line is we’re 2-0,” Dantonio said. “I can appreciate that. It’s very tough to win.”
“We just need a spark to ignite the flame,” Dantonio went on to say.
And they’ll attempt to look for that spark next week when they welcome Youngstown State into town. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 2:00 PM.
Follow Ryan Squanda on Twitter @squandaryan