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Duck, Duck, Win: Michigan State Game Recap

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Michigan State holds off Oregon, 31-28, in an instant classic

There were just enough chances to do this last night
There were just enough chances to do this last night
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, across the country, the Spartans laced up their track shoes and tried to keep pace with Oregon's high-tempo squad of Olympic-caliber track athletes. For a fair portion of that night, MSU was able to do so until, eventually, the mistakes- missed tackles, blown assignments, dicey playcalls- piled up too high and the Ducks ultimately ran away with the game.

Last night, plenty of those same problems presented themselves, along with some new ones. Duck receivers Charles Nelson, Byron Marshall, and Bralon Addison reprised last year's series of quick-hitting pass plays, followed by slipped or broken tackles. MSU's special teams problems from last week popped up again, as Addison cracked a long punt return TD and set Oregon up for a potential game-winning drive in the game's waning minutes. Oregon even outgained MSU overall on the night.

Nonetheless, the Spartans did a much better job (minus the Addison return) of keeping Oregon's speed demons in front of them, minimizing the damage and preventing the repeated disaster plays that tore the game open last year. The defensive front seven contained Royce Freeman and new Ducks QB Vernon Adams, turning Freeman away twice on a crucial goal line stand.

Oregon's normally lethal rushing attack managed less than 3 YPC, and though Adams did go over 300 passing yards, he also coughed up a pair of interceptions. Despite a few missed tackles, MSU's linebacking corps generally balled out; all three starters collected double-digit tackles, and reserve Chris Frey nailed Adams for a sack in the closing minute to force a 4th and long.

A new collection of offensive skill players made themselves known for MSU. Aaron Burbridge looks like Connor Cook's clear-cut #1 receiver, and the tag team of Madre London and LJ Scott broke enough long runs to make up for a relatively inefficient night on the ground (watch Scott's second TD run and try not to worry about this true freshman trampling your defense for the next few years if you're a fan of another team). The offensive line blanked Oregon's pass rush, and generally maintained a clean pocket.

From a 10,000-foot perspective, this game keeps MSU's stakes high for the rest of the season. Every game between now and Ohio State is another trap to sidestep, and any loss along the way will be a season-ruining failure.