Rapid Reaction: O-Line an area of concern as Michigan State survives scare from Utah State
Michigan State is just happy that one is over.
The 11th-ranked Spartans were a heavy favorite heading into the season opener against Utah State, but the Aggies gave Mark Dantonio and Co. as much as they could handle on Friday night.
Michigan State secured a 38-31 victory over Utah State to start the year 1-0, but the Spartans didn’t look anything close to the No. 11 team in the country, nor did they play like a team capable of competing in the B1G East.
Opening the year with a less-than-impressive performance is nothing new in East Lansing. Several games in the Dantonio era have left people scratching their heads wondering “how the heck did they pull that off?” But this one felt a little different.
Quarterback Brian Lewerke looked good for most of the evening, completing 23-of-33 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns. Receivers Cody White and Felton Davis made huge catches for the Spartans throughout the game. But the one glaring deficiency? Michigan State’s offensive line is a huge question mark moving forward.
Fortunately for Michigan State, Lewerke’s mobility paid off. He was sacked on a few occasions Friday night, but still managed to churn out 31 yards on 10 carries and extend a few plays with his feet. But, up front, the Spartans failed to open up running lanes.
L.J. Scott needed 23 carries to get 84 yards. Connor Heyward saved the day, coming up with 42 yards and two critical touchdowns on just five carries. For the night, the Spartans totaled 165 yards, not a bad stat for the first week of the year.
But this was Utah State. And if the Michigan State front line had trouble with a middle-of-the-road Aggies defense, how on earth will they handle guys like Chase Winovich, Rashan Gary and Nick Bosa later in the year?
Granted, the Green and White were without starting left tackle Cole Chewins, a lineman who has started in the last 16 games for the Spartans. But still, the MSU front line shouldn’t have struggled this mightily with the Aggies defense.
Maybe it’s too early to ask that question, but it’s a real concern after seeing the Spartans in action in Week 1.
Michigan State escaped opening weekend with a 1-0 record. But that offensive line is going to have to get a lot better, and in a hurry.