The Alamo Bowl Recap: A week late, a defensive coordinator short

I decided, before leaving for Washington D.C. last week, that I wouldn't plan my life around the bowl games. Instead, I would utilize my DVR, enjoy my week in D.C., and come home to a helping of football. It worked magically - I enjoyed DC clubbing (can't afford that all the time) and some wonderful food (Full Kee Chinese downtown, Rosemary's Thyme in Dupont Circle - get the Turkish Pide), without worrying if I would catch every single matchup.

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So last night, I sat down to the MSU-TT matchup, knowing the result but hoping to see our Spartans put up more of a fight than EVERYONE had expected. I came away satisfied with some things (leading by 4 with 6 minutes to go!!!!!!@@$@#$@#$) and incredibly unhappy about other things. Here's a top 2 list for both...

#1 Thing to get excited about is...

The MSU O-Co is not asleep at the wheel. Don Treadwell has shown, time and time again, an ability to adapt to changing situations. Last year, with a power run game and a shaky quarterback, he rode the Ringer train because he knew it was their best chance to succeed. Treadwell knew the combo of a solid defense, a great kicker, and a time killing run game could result in some wins. It did. This year, the run-first mentality was shaken up when everyone realized that 1) Cousins was a superior quarterback to Hoyer and 2) the line was much much better suited for pass blocking.

In the Alamo Bowl, Treadwell threw the damn kitchen sink onto the field. He's clairvoyant, reading the situation correctly (again), knowing that staying close to TT would be next to impossible by playing vanilla football. Here's from the Double T message boards:

Fake punts, flea-flickers, all sorts of wildcat looks, etc. I thought Michigan St. threw just about everything they could at Texas Tech and it was fun to watch...

It was fun, Michigans St., despite the suspensions, still has some true playmakers on offense and Cousins has a pretty good arm.

#2 Thing to get excited about is...

Keshawn Martin. A killer return man (28.9 yards per return on kickoffs, 8 yards per return on punts), who's steadily improving as an everydown receiver, who can sprint and juke enough to get the corner on end arounds...who also threw for a couple touchdowns this year. This is another man named Keshawn that should be screaming "give me the damn ball"!

...

#1 Thing to be unhappy about...

Of course, if you've followed TRE this year or the Spartans, you know what I'm going to say here....D-Co Pat Narduzzi. Here are comment's from The Only Color's message boards:

The high school defenses we play, and the defense I run, is significantly more inspired than the drivel Narduzzi calls in to Jones.

I’m not sure why Tech didn’t just run that blasted quick-motion screen every single play. I don’t think we stopped it short of a first down more than twice.

It makes me wonder how one coordinator (Don Treadwell on offense) can be so inventive and willing to adapt, while another (Pat Narduzzi on defense) is so stuck in his ways.

So… I hope Pat Narduzzi gets relieved of his duties. 4-3 is not the answer to every offensive front. There ARE other formations that can be used from time to time. The defense disappointed all year- I think it’s time to give someone else a chance.

To be honest, there were more changes in Narduzzi's TT plan than in any other 2009 game. We saw a CB blitz turn into a sack and cornerbacks rolled into bump and run coverage FAR MORE than the Spartans had done all year. Unfortunately, giving up 579 total yards to the Red Raiders will prompt questions about any D-Co. Here's what I believe:

There are defensive minds and coaches who probe with all their might, looking to find a players strengths, reading how a team will react, trying to think 2, 3 steps ahead. Like..."TT knows that our CB's play off the LOS to protect from the deep ball. So after TT throws some short passes early, we roll up the outside corners. They will inevitably adjust by looking for quick slants and deeper throws down the sideline, maybe even some screens. To counter that, we're going to widen our linebacker splits to help with quick edge passes and screens, knowing that Greg Jones and our DT's can slow the inside run game. Hell, we might even go into a 3-4 or 3-3 and show them something they haven't seen."

I get the feeling Narduzzi drew something he liked in December, inevitably from a 4-3 base, and told his boys to "work hard" during the rest of bowl prep, instead of trying to out-scheme TT. Short handed all year in the secondary, Narduzzi's lack of a defensive philosophy led to MSU giving up an astronomical amount of passing yards to all comers. See below, via cfbstats:

Date Opp. Surf. Result Att Cmp Pct. Yds Y/A Int TD Rat.
09/05/09 Montana St. Grass W 44-3 26 13 50.0 98 3.8 0 0 81.66
09/12/09 25 CMU Grass L 27-29 47 34 72.3 352 7.5 1 3 152.05
09/19/09 @ ND Grass L 30-33 34 24 70.6 304 8.9 1 3 168.93
09/26/09 @ 24 Wisc. Turf L 30-38 31 19 61.3 243 7.8 0 4 169.72
10/03/09 Michigan Grass W 26-20 32 17 53.1 223 7.0 1 2 126.05
10/10/09 @ Illinois Turf W 24-14 28 9 32.1 140 5.0 1 1 78.78
10/17/09 NW Grass W 24-14 47 34 72.3 291 6.2 0 2 138.38
10/24/09 10 Iowa Grass L 13-15 27 11 40.7 138 5.1 0 1 95.89
10/31/09 @ Minn Turf L 34-42 33 19 57.6 416 12.6 1 5 207.41
11/07/09 Western Grass W 49-14 39 16 41.0 117 3.0 0 1 74.69
11/14/09 @ Purdue Grass W 40-37 55 39 70.9 373 6.8 0 2 139.88
11/21/09 11 Penn St. Grass L 14-42 28 20 71.4 324 11.6 0 5 227.56
01/02/10 + TT Turf L 31-41 54 38 70.4 460 8.5 1 3 156.56
Totals 481 293 60.9 3479 7.2 6 32 141.14

#2 Thing to be unhappy about...

Kirk Cousins throwing off his back foot. I love Cousins and when he sets his feet, he's the best thrower in the Big Ten. But his two picks against TT sealed the Spartans fate. You all, of course, remember him tossing the ND game away with a duck also thrown off his back foot.

I know he's got a cannon, you know he's got a cannon, the fat kid from What's Happening knows he's got a cannon, Harry Potter (if he existed) would know Cousins has a cannon...But Cousins is just a sophomore, a wildly successful one at that (19-9 TD/INT ratio), and this is part of his learning curve.

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