You'd be forgiven for not thinking much about MSU's performance this past weekend, because the story can essentially be cut-and-pasted from last week, with a few alterations in the opponent's name and players.
In short, the defense was, again, masterful. USF was held to under 2 yards per pass attempt and an average of less than 12 yards per drive, and every time the Bulls gained more than 2 or 3 yards, it felt more like an accident than design. Although it's been noted ad nauseum in the numerous angst/panic columns I've read in the last couple days, sophomore DE Shilique Calhoun, by dint of a pick-six and scoop-and-score on Saturday, has now scored more touchdowns (3) than the MSU offense (2) has this season. The quality of opponent has to be accounted for, but at this point it looks like this defense could be historically good. The major offseason goal for this unit was to not just be stout, but to make the big plays- the sack, the fumble, the interception, the defensive touchdown. So far, mission accomplished. Gold stars for Pat Narduzzi and his boys.
Unfortunately, every positive superlative applied to the defense must be applied, in opposite measure, to the offense. The numbers are bad enough in a vacuum, as KJ at The Only Colors notes here. But they look even worse when the quality of opponent is added to the equation. Western Michigan and USF, in their games not against MSU this season, have lost to Nicholls State and McNeese State respectively. Both of those opponents are of the FCS persuasion, and both managed markedly better offensive production against the Bull and Bronco defenses. Offense, what you just did was one of the most insanely incompetent things I have ever seen. At no point in your baffling, incoherent gameplan were you close to anything that could be considered a rational play design. Everyone on this message board is worse at football for having seen it. I award you 7 points, and may AMSUOLHG have mercy on your souls.
Aaaaaaanyway. Most of you weren't there, so to provide a little outside perspective, I shot some questions to Collin Sherwin, bossman over at USF's fine site, Voodoo Five.
1) Well, let's just not talk about what MSU and USF puked up on the field, because that was just...*pause*...I'm being told I have to discuss the game at least in passing. Or, in the case of this game, of NOT passing, or running, or scoring very much at all. Quick thoughts on the outcome?
My quick thoughts are Michigan State is terrible, but USF is far, far worse. Sparty, you have an offense problem. And like the old saying goes, if you have two quarterbacks (or in your case, three quarterbacks with a fourth your fans are pining for), you really don't have any. That offense is so impotent Bob Dole should be on the season ticket ad campaign.
Then again, USF is playing FAU this weekend, and I am now legitimately worried about losing to a Sun Belt Twin (I know they're not in that league anymore, but that's what we'll always call FAU & FIU). Our level of suck is just beyond anything I've seen, and I'm fully prepared for 2-10 or worse. If this is what it takes to get the cancer out of the team, then fine I'm ok with it. But I hope one of my lawyer-USF alum friends starts drawing up the lawsuit to get the $2.5 million we still owe Skip Holtz back, because there was no good faith in how he stole that money.
2) USF does have a couple of potential pros in DE Aaron Lynch and WR Andre Davis. However, they've now seen back-to-back eggs laid by their team, and Davis in particular seemed to quit on Saturday. How does Taggart keep his stars engaged going forward (this, to me, would seem to be the best way to convince the fans to give him a real chance)?
We knew Andre could be a bit of a prima donna (his Twitter account was evidence of that), but he's talented and we saw flashes of pure brilliance last season. Against MSU he consistently gave up on routes, dropped passes, and got all Ricky Watters on that 3rd & 5 drag route by the sideline. It was still a football game at that point, and there's never really any excuse for not going hard at all times. I understand his frustration because his QB's are awful, but Wille better find a way to keep him engaged. Skip phased him down the depth chart and benched him at times, and we all see how that worked out.
As far as Lynch, I need to see the tape, but it looks like he's just either being used at the wrong position or else he's just not a fit at all for this scheme. There aren't any impact players on the defensive side of the ball, which we've never had happen before (the Giants-Cowboys game last night alone had 3 former USF players starting on D). How flexible and willing to adjust are Willie T and Chuck Bresnahan to see success this season at the detriment of what they want to do long term? That will probably determine how good Lynch becomes.
3) Any chance that Skip Holtz is ever hired by a sane athletic director ever again, given where he's left USF?
His legacy here is a burning pile of dog crap in a bag on our porch. He took one of the great stories in college football (the swift rise of USF Football from not existing to the BCS in 8 years) and cratered the whole fucking thing. We are going to be historically bad. It all points to one guy, and our course our athletic director followed up his 5-7 season in 2011 with a contract that GUARANTEES HIM $500,000 A YEAR FROM USF UNTIL AFTER THE 2017 SEASON TO NOT WORK HERE. Of course he went 3-9 last year, and burned a redshirt on our current starting quarterback Bobby Eveld by putting him in Game 10 for a quarter and a half before Miami broke him injured him. His level of awfulness can't be described. He literally ruined our program almost single-handedly.
4) Now that the unpleasantness of the football stuff is out of the way, let's get to the important matters: tailgating. I have to say, USF travels pretty decently for a school 1000 miles away which has only existed for 15 years. How does the tailgate atmosphere in East Lansing compare to Tampa?
I'd say similar, but I'll give the slight edge to us for having grass parking lots surrounding our stadium, having everyone in one of two lots, and the fact that even though we're new, we tailgate like Southern football fans. Which means it's a borderline obsession. Though I will agree that playing on campus is so nice. Even though we play in a gorgeous NFL stadium, at some point it would be nice to be able to bring it closer to the school. That's at least a decade away however, and maybe more now (Thanks again, Skip!!).
5) I understand you were pretty impressed by the UM-ND game. What, in particular, stood out about Ann Arbor (that filthy, filthy harlot) to you? I trust you made it to Zingerman's before you left town?
No Zingerman's because we got there late and left ASAP since I had a 8:45am flight the next day, but just the throngs of people that were single-mindedly focused on the game. We talked to people that lined up their cars at 8am to be at the golf course at 12pm for an 8pm kick. Everyone had satellite dishes, great food, good local beers... and these are the signs of people that take their tailgating seriously.
Plus that crowd was so into the game on each play, and that's what really makes a great football crowd. I'm heading to Baton Rouge in two weeks for Auburn-LSU, but I can't imagine it could get any better than what I saw in Ann Arbor. And I was shocked because I wasn't expecting that at all.
6) USF and Illinois just scheduled a home-and-home, and who knows, by the time they play, both teams could actually be decent since the entire current rosters will have graduated; are you booking your hotel for 2018 already?
I go to all the big road games, particularly for non-conference opponents because I enjoy traveling and seeing different campuses and towns, so assuming my love of Crown Royal or Tampa's cigars doesn't kill me by then I'll be there. And by Champaign we should be a better football team no matter what. I'm just sort of chalking this season up to the Gods.
7) Any other thoughts- on weather delays, horribawful offense, Shilique Calhoun, MSU Dairy Store ice cream?
You guys needed a weather delay like I needed a skirt. I live in Florida, and those clouds were about as threatening as the USF offense. Suck it up, ladies, it's just sky water. That was NOT B1G tough at all.
The Buckeye Blitz at MSU was so worth waiting in line for. What a great thing to have on campus... it's a shame you can eat there for about 4 months a year since the other 8 you're freezing to death already. Actually, why don't you ship that stuff down to Tampa when you don't need it so we can appreciate it. Only wish I had gotten a shake or malt for the road too.
So there you have it: win, lose, or Spartyfense, we still have the Dairy Store. Big thanks to Collin for being willing to relive that game, and for being one of the more professional and engaged fans/bloggers I've encountered. He and the USF fanbase likely have a very long season ahead of them, but they're determined to have a good time in spite of it. You can get a more thorough accounting of Collin's trip to the Mitten here.