It has been no secret that the Michigan State Spartans(4-2, 1-1) have had more than their fare share of issues at the wide receiver position in 2012. They have 19 dropped passes as a team, which is good for worst in the Big Ten with the next closest team having just 13. With first-year starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell looking for his go-to receiver, no one has stepped up consistently yet for the Spartans until today.
The receiving corps have put up inconsistent performances in the first six weeks of the season. One week they would have a great game and the next they would seemingly disappear from the game plan. In week one, Dion Sims was the main receiver with over 60 yards, in week two it was Bennie Fowler gaining 99 yards receiving.
In week three, Keith Mumphery with 71 yards, week four featured the tight end Sims once again with 112 yards and last week it was Mumphery again, racking up 79 yards and his first career touchdown.
The Spartans needed someone to step up in this Saturday’s matchup with bottom-dweller Indiana(2-3, 0-2) on the road. Although it may seem like a positive that each week has seen a different top performer at the receiver position, it has actually proved to be the opposite. Each of these receivers has had solid weeks in which they were receiving stars, but they failed to show up the following week, or, for some, any week after that.
Fowler has seen his playing time affected by this lack of production, being moved to the backup role in the wake of a disappointing loss to Ohio State.
His replacement? Freshman wide out, Aaron Burbridge. The Farmington Hills, Mi., native showed that he was not afraid of pressure, making his first career start, and most likely the first of many.
The freshman caught eight passes for 134 yards, both of which are season-highs for Spartan receivers this season. He showed reliable hands and quickness that has been missing for this group since losing Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham to the NFL after last season.
Burbridge provided the spark that Michigan State needed in order to make a comeback against the Hoosiers. They began the game playing down to their opponent once again, finding themselves on the wrong end of a 17-0 first quarter score. They went into halftime trailing the Hoosiers 27-14, nothing too surprising for this MSU team. They have gone into halftime as the losing team in five out of six games this season.
The Spartans found themselves in a hole and desperately looking for a way to get out of it. Burbridge provided an answer to their questions. He was the guy that was going to step up and deliver, not taking for granted the opportunity that he was presented.
There was a point in the fourth quarter in which the Spartans faced a long third down and the momentum seemed to be in Indiana’s favor. Andrew Maxwell stepped up in the pocket and fired a ball to a double-covered Burbridge who caught the ball over both of them and changed the tide of the game for good.
The Spartans went on to close it out and improve their record to 4-2 overall this season.
Burbridge is likely to be the starter from this point on and will be considered the go-to guy at receiver unless something drastic happens with the offense. Although he had a dropped pass late in the third quarter that cost the Spartans a first down, he made up for it with his other catches that resulted in first downs.
Andrew Maxwell’s prayers have been answered in the form of a freshman receiver. Who would have thought?