Over the last two weeks, the Michigan State Spartans looked like they had made some progress on developing an offense that was worthy of its nation’s-best defense. Today that offense looked like it did earlier this season again, but just like in old times the Spartans defense kept that fact from really mattering against Purdue.
Michigan State managed just 294 yards of offense and 14 points today at home against the Boilermakers. Fortunately for Michigan State, that was more than enough as its defense held Purdue to 226 yards of offense and pitched a shutout to preserve the 14-0 win and keep Michigan State undefeated in Big 10 play.
In the Spartans’ past two contests, Michigan State averaged 34 points and 442 yards of offense. Today the Michigan State offense scored one touchdown and amassed only 294 yards of offense. The biggest difference from those two games to today was the play of quarterback Connor Cook. At Iowa and against Indiana, Cook averaged 256 yards passing with two touchdowns and converted 63 percent of his passes. Today against Purdue Cook converted only 52 percent of his passes for 107 yards and didn’t have a touchdown pass.
While Cook and the Michigan State offense had an off day, it was another stellar performance for the defense. Purdue gained only 66 rushing yards on 34 attempts, an average of 1.9 yards per carry. The Spartans intercepted a Danny Etling pass and recovered an Etling fumble off of which they scored a touchdown. Today, the Spartans’ defense made the offensive struggles irrelevant.
Earlier questions that arose about this team’s ability to move the ball and score points could resurface this week, however. Despite holding Purdue to 5-of-15 on third down conversions and finishing the game plus-two in the turnover margin, the time of possession and total yardage was still about equal between the Boilermakers and Spartans. The offensive effort might have to be much better to get a win against Michigan, Nebraska or in a potential Big 10 championship game.
The Spartans have shown that they are capable of playing a complete game. Whether or not they can do that consistently remains to be determined. It’s a great luxury to know that you can have a bad day offensively at home and still win by two touchdowns.
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