It’s Andrew Maxwell. It’s the special teams. It’s the lack of urgency on offense. All of these have been brought up as problems for Michigan State‘s (3-2, 0-1) struggles in 2012, none of which are the actual problem.
Yes, Maxwell struggles at times to throw the ball down the field, and yes, the special teams have yet to impress, but the real problem lies at other positions on offense. The real problem you ask? It lies in the hands of the receivers and the offensive line.
The Spartans hosted Ohio State (5-0, 1-0) on Saturday and it looked as if the offense got little practice this week. The only positive on offense from this game: Andrew Maxwell proved that he is comfortable being the starter and having the world full of pressure on his shoulders. Maxwell looked poised to lead MSU to victory, the rest of the offense didn’t look as ready.
Granted, Maxwell was just 22-42 passing, but a good chunk of the incompletions were the result of dropped passes by the receivers. It’s not even the fact that the blame is being put on the receivers, they would tell you they didn’t perform, again.
On a day where Le’Veon Bell couldn’t find a hole because of the poor blocking, partially due to injuries, but mostly due to lack of chemistry, other players need to step up. Maxwell did his part, finding open receivers and passing the ball with accuracy and even taking shots down the field.
There was a play early in the game where Maxwell took a shot to the endzone, but a poor route was run by Tony Lippitt and little effort was made to stretch out for a ball that was just feet from a touchdown catch. Plays like this are unacceptable.
Although Bell had just 17 carries for 45 yards, he was one the one who bailed out the rest of the receivers and the offensive line by making a catch on a little dump pass more often than not. When Maxwell is getting rushed and hit play after play, Bell was there to make sure his quarterback wasn’t being sacked constantly, catching a team-high eight passes for 58 yards.
There was one bright spot at receiver with speedy sophomore wide out Keith Mumphery making consistent catches and breaking tackles. The Georgia-native had five catches for 79 yards and his first career touchdown.
Tight end Dion Sims was solid again, catching the ball just twice, but gaining 36 yards, pushing his season total to 277 yards on 22 catches. He has emerged as the most trusted receiver and one of the best tight ends in the conference.
With the problems at receiver, come the problems on the offensive line. People don’t realize that there is a certain chemistry that an offensive line needs to become successful. They are a group that needs to work together to get a job done, open holes and protect their quarterback. This Spartan line has all the potential and some experience to be successful, but the chemistry has yet to match.
The chemistry problem is partially due to the injuries that have been suffered by experienced lineman. Guard Blake Treadwell has been out this season with an injury suffered in the off-season, senior tackle Fou Fonoti has been out since week one with a leg injury and center Travis Jackson left the game today against the Buckeyes after suffering a broken leg and torn ACL, ending the sophomore’s season.
It’s safe to say the offense is depleted. It’s also safe to say it can’t possibly get any worse.
The receivers have talent and potential, the line will eventually gel, Le’Veon Bell will bounce back and Andrew Maxwell has shown signs of greatness. Mark Dantonio and the Spartans now know exactly what they need to work on, and he has me to thank for this stunning revelation.