Predicting MSU Football’s Season Opener at Western Michigan

This Friday night matchup will be a lot closer than what most football fans would expect. Depending on the eligibility of junior Spartan running back Delton Williams, head coach Mark Dantonio is very eager to see who stands out to fit into the starting tailback role.

In the opener, the ground game will take over the Spartans’ offensive playbook, with sophomore Gerald Holmes and freshman Madre London splitting the carries. However, they are stuffed by the Broncos defensive line throughout the first half due to first game jitters and lack of execution.

WMU strikes first with a field goal midway through the second quarter. Remaining calm, Dantonio decides to give the keys to senior quarterback Connor Cook to lead the offense for the rest of the game. Sparty scores on back-to-back possessions with a 60-yard bomb to senior wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, following a six-yard strike to the versatile junior tight end Josiah Price.

The Spartans take a slim 14-3 lead into halftime, but fail to continue to build on their momentum when Cook throws his first interception of the season. Sparty’s defense dominates the Broncos’ aerial game, but is shaky against the run for the majority of the game. Sophomore Bronco running back Jarvion Franklin pounds his way into the end zone from three yards out to cut the Spartan lead to four.

Cook finds his tune by spreading the ball out and making solid decisions. He has seven-straight completions at one point during his hot streak.

The successful passing game causes running lanes to open up, which the Spartans take advantage of. True freshman L.J. Scott makes his mark in the second half with two scores on runs of 40 and 50.

After a 30-yard Michael Geiger field goal at the start of the fourth quarter, MSU holds a comfortable 31-10 edge. The starters are pulled from the game to prevent injury in addition to getting experience and playing time for the back ups.

The defense continues to dominate in every aspect, forcing six punts and three turnovers. On the other hand, the offense milks the clock for the rest of the game, thanks to the combination of power and speed that Holmes, London and Scott bring to the table.

The Spartans win their season opener by a convincing three-touchdown margin.

Summary: Michigan State shows its vulnerability in the first half with the absences of several key pieces from last year’s squad: Running back Jeremy Langford, wide receivers Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery, cornerback Trae Waynes and of course former defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.

MSU had near collapses in back-to-back weeks against Nebraska and Purdue last year, mainly due to complacency. WMU is able to hang around for two-and-a-half quarters thanks to the lack of some worthy players at core positions and MSU looking ahead to their next date with Oregon. Effective halftime adjustments made by the coaching staff and MSU’s experience and continuity help the Spartans surge to a 31-10 win.

It is two different tales for the offense in both halves. They were virtually non-existent in the first half, but spring to life in the second half. The MSU offense makes big plays throughout the second half both in the passing and running game. Cook shines with his consistency and good decision making, finishing the night with 250 passing yards, two touchdown throws and one interception.

Holmes and London were decent, but it is the true freshman, Scott, who establishes his incredible potential with a total of 150 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Scott was by far the best change that the coaching staff made at halftime. Holmes and London were bobbled up, so they decided to remove the redshirt for the nothing but hyped Scott to see if he could revive the Spartan ground game.

No receiver stands out, as it was a good balancing act with Burbridge, Shelton and Price leading the way.

For the defense, however, it was a different story. They were extremely consistent throughout the entire night, with the defensive line recording five sacks (Shilique Calhoun, three) along with two picks from the secondary. There is some trouble with the running game for a while, but the pass defense was on point the whole way.

It was a good warm up game for the MSU defense, as the veteran unit built on their chemistry.