Rapid Reaction: Spartans get over Oregon hurdle
Final: No. 5 Michigan State 31, No. 7 Oregon 28
Telling stat: Oregon rushes for 2.9 yards per carry
With a back like Royce Freeman, that’s a minor miracle. He was banged up at the end of this one, but the Spartans were able to prevent him from running wild. They also kept Vernon Adams from taking over with his legs. Everybody talked about talented the Oregon signal-caller was, which proved to be true. But in his fourth week within the system, he didn’t look polished in Scott Frost’s offense. The Spartans gameplanned well and prevented him from breaking free when his first two reads weren’t open. That Michigan State defensive line showed up in a big way against the versatile Oregon quarterback.
Key play: Chris Frey sacks Adams on third down
Grown. Man. Play. Frey was everywhere all day for the Spartans, but no play was bigger than his third-down sack on Oregon’s potential go-ahead drive. Adams couldn’t complete a fourth-and-long and Michigan State got the huge stop it had been searching for in a prime-time for the last two years. You could go back to a crucial goal-line stand that the Spartans had in the first half, which also helped Oregon’s offense from gaining the momentum it appeared to have.
-Kodi Kieler goes down with right leg injury
There was no word on what the right tackle’s injury was, but it certainly didn’t look good. Kieler did not return after he was noticeably emotional being helped off the field. The Spartans have arguably the best offensive line in America, and they still have studs in Jack Allen and Jack Conklin. But for a ground game that is just establish itself, the loss of Kieler will be felt. It’s also worth noting that Shilique Calhoun limped off the field in the second half but did return to action. Spartans fans could breathe a collective sigh of relief to see him back in there for Oregon’s final two drives.
-Spartan backs grew up
Madre London and L.J. Scott are both looking like feature backs. For a team that didn’t have a set starter coming into fall camp, that’s not a bad problem to have. London busted open a 62-yard run to start the game and Scott shined in relief with two scores. Scott has the upside that Dantonio might be looking for, as shown on his 38-yard score. You can’t arm-tackle Scott, as he showed on his 38-yard scamper. He’s special, and with that offensive line, he’s got plenty of green grass ahead of him.
What it means: Michigan State is a national title contender
Do you think that sounds lofty? You shouldn’t. This was the game the Spartans had to get to prove that. To be in that conversation, you have to beat top-10 teams at home. Connor Cook is 25-3 as a starter now, with more big-game experience as any quarterback in the country. As long as the Spartans stay healthy, they’ll generate more and more hype leading into that showdown November against Ohio State.
What’s next: vs. Air Force
How do you go from a game like that to a noon game against Air Force? Mark Dantonio will find a way. His coaching prowess will be tested in the coming weeks. We can all look ahead to November, but the Spartans can’t afford to. Just because you’re a national title contender doesn’t mean you’re invincible. Just ask Auburn.