Michigan State shows massive improvement in win over Notre Dame
Once again, Michigan State has proven everyone wrong.
It’s like clockwork. We count out the Spartans. They don’t look that impressive against a bad opponent. They stun us by dominating a really good team.
That same chain of events has occurred again. In the season opener, Michigan State looked flawed, beating an middling Furman team 28-13 at home. The Spartans were still good, we thought, but not College Football Playoff good.
Saturday, they scored 36 unanswered points to hand 18th-ranked Notre Dame it’s second loss of the season, beating the Irish 36-28.
When will we learn our lesson?
Michigan State looked good on Saturday. Really good. Yes, even College Football Playoff good.
The defense made plays and the offense was balanced. All the things that were causes for concern two weeks ago appeared to be corrected during the bye week. From the second quarter through the early stages of the fourth, Mark Dantonio looked like he was coaching the best team in the country.
Those weren’t the Spartans we were supposed to see on Saturday. That team disintegrated after last year’s blowout loss to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. The team we expected was the one that limped out of East Lansing after a disappointing performance against Furman.
You can’t judge a book by its cover. You can’t judge Michigan State by one game.
Remember those troubles moving the football? It wasn’t a problem this week. Tyler O’Connor threw for 241 yards and two TDs while completing 73 percent of his passes. Gerald Holmes and L.J. Scott combined for 198 yards and three TDs on the ground.
Michigan State totaled 501 yards on the ground against Notre Dame, a significant improvement from the 361 it tallied against Furman.
Defensively, the Spartans looked better, too. They held the Irish to just seven points until the 2:40 mark of the third quarter. It forced three turnovers and shut down the run, surrendering just 57 yards on the ground.
And those pesky penalties? The 10 yellow flags that Dantonio was disgusted with two weeks ago? That total was trimmed down to three.
Related: Watch: MSU Receiver Snags Touchdown Pass
When will we learn that Michigan State isn’t a one-hit wonder? When will we start giving Dantonio credit? Even when he doesn’t have the most talented roster, he’s got his team prepared to play every week, regardless of opponent.
The first and fourth quarters weren’t ideal. The Spartans got down early and needed a fumble to spark some sort of offensive momentum. And after building a 36-7 lead, they allowed Notre Dame to get within a possession in the final minutes of the game. It was far from a perfect performance.
But in quarters two and three, things looked good. This actually looked like a team that could potentially be better than last year’s B1G champions.
We weren’t saying that two weeks ago.
Once again, we didn’t give the defending B1G champs enough respect. Once again, they proved to us why they’re still a power in the conference.
All offseason, Michigan State has been focused on getting back to Indianapolis to claim consecutive B1G titles and get another shot at the College Football Playoff. Players, coaches and fans have utilized the hashtag #back2back to symbolize what the 2016 season is about.
It’s time to start taking that seriously, because the Spartans are good. College Football Playoff good.