Both the Michigan State Spartans and Boise State Broncos went into their game Friday night at the beginning of a new day for both programs. Both were without quarterbacks they had known for years: Kellen Moore (Boise St.) and Kirk Cousins (Michigan St.). At the end of the night, the Spartans gained a close 17-13 triumph, but they also found a man they may have to lean on for offense this season: running back Le’Veon Bell.
Neither offense in this game was going to resemble last year’s, or the year before, or the year before that. Again, when you lose a quarterback that had been at your program for years and made a clear imprint in the program, it’s difficult to almost impossible to move on immediately.
Both starters in this game found that out the hard way with Andrew Maxwell (Michigan St.) and Joe Southback (Boise St.) both making their first collegiate starts and both showing the inexperience and average at best play that goes along with that.
Maxwell in particular suffered the jitters of a first career start with three interceptions, one of which was off of a tip and returned for a Broncos touchdown. His play did improve as the game wore on, but nothing to indicate that he is anything other than a work in progress.
Bell made his presence felt with great runs including one of his first being highlighted with him hurtling over a Broncos defender on his way to a twenty-plus yard gain. Bell would end up with career highs in carries (44) and yards (210), but most important were Bell’s two touchdown runs—the only two touchdowns the Spartans scored Friday night.
Le’Veon Bell even managed to help Maxwell out on a key play that set up Bell’s eventual game-winning touchdown run. On a third down play during a fourth quarter drive, Bell provided the key block that gave Maxwell the time to complete his pass for a first down. That first down helped set up Bell’s second touchdown run, that score providing the margin of victory for the Spartans.
The Spartans have come into this season with Rose Bowl aspirations and equal hype. What last night should have taught those watching is that this team has the defense to get back to the Big-10 championship game, but their offense still leaves a lot to be desired.
If Bell is going to be required to rush forty times a game and put up numbers in every single game that resemble last night’s just so a slim victory can be achieved, it will be a long year for the Spartans. If Bell is going to be leaned upon the way he was last night, it will end up cutting both ways because an inefficient offense automatically puts added pressure on the defense to perform at a high level.
The Spartans defense looked good in Friday night’s opener, but with road games against Michigan & Wisconsin, and games against Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio St., that offense will need to put up more than seventeen points or else losses will follow.