Two Topics for One: Lack of Depth on the Bench and MSU Men’s Basketball Gamethread (Stoney Brook)
Nov 19th, 2017 by Jeffrey Lubeck

Topic #1:  Lack of Depth on the Bench.

MSU’s victory in College Football left a lot to be desired.  However a win-is-a-win and there should be no discounting the Spartans turn-around.  Go Green!

However, can the broadcast networks be doing a poorer job of providing sportscasters and commentators for these regional\national contests? And the half-time talent?  Big names with little-to-no background covering and commenting on the college game.

Let us put the subject of bias off to the side.  Way off to the side!

Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman were about as bad as it gets.  Both were ill-prepared. Their game-call was mistake-ridden from start to finish.  It would probably be easier to count the number of times a play sequence did not include some type of announcing error.  And hey,wasn’t it great that MSU Alum Holly Sonders was the field reporter!  Did we get a report from the field? Seriously! Other than the self engrandizing “coming home” half-time segment, did Holly actually make a report from the field while the game was in progress?  Holly covers golf (with a good deal of competence).  College football?  Shame on you FOX!

As we are all aware, the issue is not isolated to this game or FOX.  What has happened?  Not enough money left-over after the payment to the conferences to hire good talent?  Too many games broadcast and not enough time for preparation?  Potential Announcers know that USMC(retired) and JerseyJohn are going to offer public ridicule so they have chosen another profession?  For example, where are the days of ABC Wide World of Sports and Jim McKay, Bill Flemming, and Chris Schenkel.  Gosh, Chris Schenkel’s call made bowling exciting! Do I have Rose Colored Glasses on this topic?

Topic #2: MSU Men’s Basketball Gamethread (Stoney Brook)

The Spartans take on Stoney Brook.  The Seawolves play in the American East Conference.  They are 0-3 so far this year – losing all games by double-digits.

If you are saying to yourself “hey why I am thinking Stoney Brook as being a pretty good team.”  Stoney Brook used to be a good team.  The Seawolves jumped into Division 1 basketball at the turn-of-the century (gosh that sounds weird).  Coach Steve Pikiell was retained soon after and Stoney Brook starting winning at a high-level.  From 2009-2016 Stoney Brook almost always finished around 22 and something, play in the American East Conference Title Game (usually losing to Vermont) and go to the NIT\CBI.  In 2016 Stoney Brook won the American East Title and made the NCAA Tournament – losing to Kentucky as #13 seed.  Pikiell was hired by Rutgers.  Jeff Boals left his position as an Assistant Coach at the Ohio State and was named Head Coach at Stoney Brook last season.  The Seawolves finished 17-12.

The Seawolves lost 76-61 (in Uniondale NY) to the team representing the heritage of Henrietta Maria of France and Queen Consort of England and Ireland.

Spartans at Wildcats Football – Gamethread.
Oct 28th, 2017 by Jeffrey Lubeck

MSU takes on Northwestern in college football.  Game time 3:30PM (EDT) on ESPN.

Hoosiers at Spartans Football – Gamethread
Oct 21st, 2017 by Jeffrey Lubeck


Liberty University takes on Monmouth (1PM ET ESPN3) and Indiana travels to East Lansing, MI to take on the Spartans (3:30PM ET ABC).  Those are key college games for TUS Membership.  The Astros host the Yankees in game 7 of the American League Championship Series (6:08PM ET FOX).  UofM takes on Penn State (7:30PM ET ABC) and Notre Dame and USC battle (7:30PM ET NBC).

So there are lot’s of events of which to focus and comment.

Also high on the list of things to do, is continued projections of what The Marine will ultimately settle on as the Moniker for Tigers Manager Ron Gardenhire.  Dr. Real Irony of the Naming Institute For Society (NIFS) says that Vegas betting had established “Forest Fire” as a early 3-1 favorite followed by “Plant Manager” at 7-1.  However Irony feels USMC(retired) ultimately will settle on a better Moniker given his skill of blending the arcane with the notable.  She thinks that Hortus Conclusus might prove to be a solid choice given the limitations Gardenhire might experience with Detroit.

The IU sports beat writer for the newspaper in Bloomington Indiana say the Hoosiers have been focusing during practice this week on:

1. Containing MSU’s Quarterback

2. Stripping the ball from MSU’s Running Back.

The Spartans are favored by 6+

Go Green.

Mid-Week Thread–cRank it up
Oct 17th, 2017 by Kindle

The AP voters move Michigan State up to #18, one spot ahead of Michigan in this week’s Top 25 poll….Is that going to be enough to make people in AA lose their minds? But Harbaugh..but Harbaugh, but Harbaugh…..



Jalen Watts-Jackson grabbed a flubbed punt and lumbered 38 yards into the end zone for a touchdown on the final play of the game, giving Michigan State a shocking 27-23 win over Michigan.  Happy Day, everyone!
This never gets old: Here are 9 simultaneous shots of the play some may have never seen  before:



Whether anyone from TUS is actually attending Michigan State Madness on Friday night, KNOW THE FOLLOWING~~~ All Spartan fans need to be aware that Michigan State is stepping up security efforts.  MSU announces increased security at sporting events: No-bag policy for all indoor events and more visible police presence at football games.  The no-bag policy is now in effect for ALL campus events at ALL indoor athletic facilities.  The “no-bag” policy means all bags are prohibited at all events at indoor athletic facilities — Breslin & Munn — as well as Spartan Stadium.  This policy is also for concerts/special events at those venues. A full list of prohibited items can be found here:



6h6 hours ago

MSU stats update: Kenny Willekes (a GoSt8Go fave) credited with additional sack vs. Minnesota. He now has four sacks and eight TFLs this season.

Michigan State players have nicknamed Matt Coghlin “McLovin.” Mark Dantonio just called him “McMuffin.”Interesting stats from Week 7

Wisconsin is 6-0, with zero wins over teams with a winning record, and two currently-winning teams remain on their schedule.


*Ohio State scored 97 consecutive points against Nebraska over two games in the last two years.

*USF tied an AP poll-era record by scoring at least 30 points in its 23rd consecutive game.

*Stanford’s Bryce Love has a rush of at least 50 yards in nine straight games.

*Arizona’s Khalil Tate is the first FBS quarterback to run for 200 yards in consecutive games since 1997, per the Pac-12 Network.

*Arizona QB’s have rushed for exactly 1,000 yards this season. Tate 663, Dawkins 338, Rodriguez -1

*The are the first team in NFL history to lose 5 straight games, each by 3 or fewer points.

*Nebraska threw no pick-sixes on Saturday.




We’re Just One Day Away~~~~~
Oct 6th, 2017 by Kindle

This image needs no caption. I will, however, note that MSU will be wearing all white uniforms for their road game at Michigan tomorrow night.

It’s that time again
Michigan and Michigan State square off tomorrow night in this annual rivalry game.  This year feels more enticing than last year’s confrontation. Michigan State comes in with a 3-1 record and Michigan is 4-0. Last year, the Spartans were just 2-5 and reeling, to say the very least.  If Michigan State can knock off Michigan in Ann Arbor tomorrow it would be the eighth win in the rivalry since Dantonio became head coach over 11 years ago.


On a national level, much like last year’s meeting, this isn’t expected to be a great game. The Wolverines are No. 7 in the AP Top 25 and the Spartans are not ranked. While Michigan has won all four of its games by at least 16 points, Michigan State lost its only game to a ranked opponent by 20 points two weeks ago against Notre Dame.

This year vs. last

The skunkbears look a lot different than their 2016 counterparts. The defense no longer features Jabrill Peppers, Jourdan Lewis and Taco Charlton. Even Wilton Speight isn’t going to be on the field after suffering an injury against Purdue Sept. 23.  Their offense may still be a question mark as quarterback John O’Korn takes the helm in place of Speight….but we know O’Korn played very well against Purdue.
Tyler O’Connor started for MSU and did little. Then Damion Terry got a turn and did nothing.  But Brian Lewerke made a difference when he entered in the fourth quarter.  I like to imagine things could’ve turned out better for the Spartans had he played much earlier.

Fearing I am on the verge of rambling, I will cut this short.  89 Chemistry has announced he will be unavailable tomorrow for a game thread or comment.  I will be able to watch the game but will be unable to put up a game thread as well.  Go Green!

Another fun look back

I will offer a link that I think you will find to be fun.  89, GoSt8Go and Ghost of Biggie shared much about “the play” from 2015 on the previous thread.  We never tire of seeing it.  Few will ever forget where we were when this play happened.  Where were you?

16 favorite parts about “The Play”

An Article Recollecting What Happened Two Years Ago at Michigan Stadium
Oct 3rd, 2017 by 89 Chemistry

Describing the indescribable: Voices behind Big House mayhem


by Matt Charboneau and Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News, 8:25 a.m. EDT, October 27, 2016


Jim Harbaugh let the clock wind down to 10 seconds before calling a timeout on fourth down with Michigan leading Michigan State, 23-21.

Sean McDonough, calling the game for ESPN, said the Wolverines needed to be cautious.

“Make sure the (punt) snap is on the target,” McDonough said.

Analyst Chris Spielman added his assessment.

“Tell your punter to one-step it, get it out.   Don’t take your normal steps.   One-step it, get it out, he said.

And then …

“Whoa! He has trouble with the snap!” McDonough yelled, his voice cracking as he described the play.

Michigan punter Blake O’Neill fumbled the snap, and Michigan State backup defensive back Jalen Watts-Jackson returned it for a touchdown and a 27-23 victory.

As Watts-Jackson plunged into the end zone, Michigan’s Jake Butt lunged toward him in a desperate attempt to stop the inevitable.

“Whoa!” Michigan State radio analyst Jason Strayhorn breathlessly yelled.   “Are you kidding me?   Are you kidding me?   Are you kidding me?!”

Jim Brandstatter, on the Michigan radio play-by-play, was equally as stunned.

“He fumbled the ball!   No time left.   You’ve got to be kidding me.   That, you could not write.   I don’t know what to say.”

It’s a moment that will forever live in the minds of those who were there, those who watched, and those who listened.

And for those whose job it was to tell the story.

Each had a unique perspective about the play.

Sean McDonough

McDonough was named lead play-by-play announcer for ESPN’s Monday Night Football this season.   He covered Major League Baseball and NCAA basketball for CBS before moving to ABC/ESPN in 2000 where he has covered college football, basketball and hockey and the NHL.

“As much as Michigan looked like it was going to win, I’m proud we never said it’s a win.   We referenced, ‘If it stays this way’ and put in perspective what a win would mean under Harbaugh.   Spielman talked about the scenarios before the punt.

“It was just shocking.   People ask me all the time about the call and my voice breaking and what do you do at that point?   You don’t think about it.   You don’t think about, ‘This is a good play so I better scream like a 12-year-old.’   Good play-by-play people respond instinctively.   You go with it mentally, physically, emotionally.   First of all, you don’t have time to think, secondly, you don’t have time to anticipate.   You have 30 seconds to think about every wacky thing that might happen, and you certainly don’t think that wouldn’t happen.

“I’m a big believer in there’s nothing you can say that’s better than the pictures and the sound.   All you can do is distract from or ruin what should be a great moment if you’re talking over something that does not need a caption.   We didn’t talk for close to a minute.

“It’s one of the things I love the most about what we do.   If you’re lucky enough, you end up at a place and a moment like that, and you get one chance like that.   It’s there and there forever.   It’s like playing or coaching or officiating—it’s there.   Big plays like that, either you get it right or you don’t.

“I remember thinking after the game, ‘What happened to my voice?’   The good news is, I think I have hit puberty since then.   I’m now shaving which is very exciting.   It was bizarroland.   It was such an unexpected shocking dramatic play, I hope my high-pitched squealing added to it.   At the beginning I was, I don’t want to say embarrassed by it, but I’ve had so much great response to that.

“The magnitude of the moment, it would be hard-pressed to say I had seen an ending like that.   You walk out of there and you’re in disbelief like everyone else and you’re hoping you did it justice.   You’re around long enough you hope to be in those types of situations a few times.   I feel very fortunate to have been there.   For the Michigan people, I’m sure they didn’t think that was the right time.   That’s the benefit of not being affiliated with either team.   I did not care who won or lost.   I didn’t have the rooting-interest part of me at work.   If you did, it would be hard to focus.   I’d be hard-pressed to remember anything else from that game, except the ending.   It’s one of those plays, it will be remembered forever.”

George Blaha

Blaha has been calling Michigan State football for nearly four decades and has been on hand for some of the most memorable games in school history.   The 2014 inductee into the Michigan Broadcasting Hall of Fame is also in his 40th season as the play-by-play voice for the Pistons.

“I’ve seen my share of blocked punts for starters and you can’t do these games for as long as I have and not see some crazy things happen.   And they’ve happened to the Spartans and they’ve happened to the other guys.   So I knew I had a ringside seat.   It happened right underneath us and I’m thinking, ‘I wonder if they can block this thing?’   And then I looked and see there is nobody back, they’re coming after ‘em, which they should.   And Michigan had gunners and I thought, ‘Well you know, it looks to me like it’s the more numbers in Spartan jerseys than there are in Wolverine jerseys.   Who knows?’

“I mean, I thought to myself before the snap it was gonna have to be perfect that’s why I went crazy when I saw it was bad.   It wasn’t a good snap.   It wasn’t a horrible snap but it was not a good snap and they needed, under those circumstances, just about a perfect snap and they didn’t get it.   And Blake O’Neill, who in my opinion was the reason Michigan was ahead in the game, he kept pinning the Spartans back all day.   (Michigan State) had outgained Michigan and out-first downed them 2 to 1.   The poor kid suddenly was flooded with Spartans in his face and, including, and I thought it was appropriate as I look back on it, I didn’t know at the time who was in his face, but it was Grayson Miller and Matt Morrissey, two legacy kids.

“I was not unprepared for a blocked punt.  I thought that was about the only thing that could happen here to turn this the other way and it’s happened before, let’s see what happens now.   It was bedlam after that.   Absolute bedlam.   I thought it was Jalen Watts-Jackson but I had to look down on my sheet just to be sure because you want whoever did it to get proper credit and it was Jalen and good for him.   He paid for it dearly and had to recoup from his hip injury but he’s a Spartan hero for the rest of his life.”

Jim Brandstatter

Brandstatter, who played offensive line at Michigan between 1969-71, handles radio play-by-play for the school and is an analyst on Lions radio broadcasts.   He also hosts the Inside Michigan Football television show and the Inside Michigan Football radio show with coach Jim Harbaugh.

“It happened so fast, you just react.   My position is, your training takes over.   All I remember thinking ahead of time, ‘They’re going to block it.   Make sure you get the kick off.’   They had nobody deep.   He gets this away, it’s over.   I didn’t say that because (Michigan State) brought everybody up.   I went ‘Well they better max protect and get this off.’

“Like every play-by-play announcer, everything was up for grabs and at that point, that’s when your training takes over.   I called the play, I was accurate, but I didn’t get the name of Jalen Watts-Jackson who recovered it and scored.   I said, ‘10, five, touchdown Michigan State.   And they’ve won the football game.’   Twenty seconds later I got his name.

“And then I paused.   You let the crowd tell the story.   After a few seconds, I said, you can’t write this stuff.   Dan didn’t say anything for another 10 seconds.   He finally said, ‘I’m just taking some time to process what I just saw.’   Both of us looked at each other.   You’ve got to play 60 minutes and this was a perfect example.   Both of us sat there and looked at each other.

“I’ve got to finish the game.   I’ve been through the Hail Marys, but 99 out of 100 times this doesn’t happen.   When we beat Indiana in ‘79, that wasn’t going to happen, but that happened on the good side for us.   All the stars were in the right alignment and the moon was in the right position and Aquarius was inside Leo and it happened.   The only thing I would say now, that play will not have any bearing on anything that happens this year.   Michigan has revenge of eight years on their minds.   That one play doesn’t make it different.”

Chris Spielman

Spielman, the former Pro Bowl selection who played 11 seasons in the NFL including the Lions, has become a fixture in football broadcasting.   He began as an NFL studio analyst with Fox Sports Net in 1999, then spent 14 years as a college football analyst with ESPN before moving this year to join Fox’s NFL coverage.

“I just remember the setup.   The one thing I thought, I remember making a comment that he should one step it, catch it and one step and get rid of it.   Being trained as a player for so many years, you always expect the unexpected.

“The guy who was the MVP of the broadcast was the spotter for the kid who recovered the ball.   He did a great job, and Sean was on top of it with genuine emotion that makes the ending of that game so special.   Sean was really good, and I followed his lead.

“You don’t want to talk over something like that.   The pictures can speak way louder than what we had to say.   I was really proud of that whole crew for how we handled that play.   It was producer Bo Garrett and Mike Schwab, the director.   It was a once-in-a-lifetime ending, and it was one of those moments you never want to get flat-footed, and we didn’t.”

Jason Strayhorn

Strayhorn was an offensive lineman at Michigan State and started 24 consecutive games at center between 1997-98, earning first-team all-Big Ten honors as a senior.   He is in his 11th season with the Spartans Sports Network, the first seven as a sideline reporter.

“So 10 seconds left and we had no one deep at all. And I’m thinking, ‘OK, so they’re gonna kick the ball.’   And I’m thinking about Hail Mary, I’m thinking about Connor Cook getting back in the game, how much time can we get, can we get close enough within striking distance for a Hail Mary?   That’s all I was thinking about.   I wasn’t thinking about a blocked punt whatsoever.   But then I looked and I noticed they had gunners, which was odd.   I’m like, ‘Why do they have gunners, there’s nobody deep?’

“And then when he bobbled it, George hit the, ‘Bad snap!’   And I’m like, ‘Whoa!”   The ball’s in the air and it’s one of those moments where you’re just like, ‘Am I really seeing this?’   And Jalen Watts-Jackson gets the ball and all I’m thinking is, ‘Oh God, he’s gonna run out of bounds or he’s gonna get tackled.   He’s gonna fumble the ball.   What’s gonna happen?   He’s not gonna make it to the goal line.’   And then just watching him navigate through all that traffic and Butt coming and tackles him, but he crossed the goal line clearly.   That was why my reaction was so ridiculous.

“Yeah, it was raw emotion.   The guy who’s screaming ‘Oh my God!’ that is not me.   That’s (statistician) Larry Sernick.   People think that’s me going off mike, they think that was me going ‘Whoa!   Oh my God,’ like me doing both. I’m like, ‘No, no, no.   I wasn’t going that crazy.’   But I was nuts.   I was out of my mind.   There’s no doubt about it.”

Doug Karsch

Karsch is the longtime sideline reporter for Michigan radio broadcasts.   He also is co-host of Karsch & Anderson on 97.1 The Ticket.

“Every game, regardless of what’s going on, if it looks like they’re going to win, I set up a sideline interview before the game ends.   (Michigan associate athletic director Dave) Ablauf was behind the bench and we were discussing who we were going to talk to if Michigan won.   Todd McShay, the television sideline reporter, Ablauf and I were sorting out who we would talk to, and by the time we got that figured out, Michigan was lining up to punt.

“I had to decide where to go.   I went to the end to where they were punting, about the 25-yard line on the Michigan sideline.   Just as I got down there, they snapped the ball, and I absolutely had no view of it.   I saw there was no punt, and there was commotion on the sideline.   I looked at the scoreboard to see Jalen Watts-Jackson carrying the ball into the end zone.

“Now, we’re not doing an interview.   Then, my job is to go into the locker room.   I usually get three interviews.   It’s a given that if they lose a game, it will take a while.   I waited probably an hour, and if I recall correctly I got one player, maybe two, but not three.   I’ve been in some depressed locker rooms.   I’ve been in the locker room after Appalachian State — that was anger, this was shock.”

Keith Nichol

Nichol was a quarterback and wide receiver at Michigan State, his biggest moment coming in 2011 when he caught a touchdown pass on the final play to beat Wisconsin.   Now a financial representative in Troy, Nichol is in his second season as the sideline reporter for the Spartan Sports Network.

“I was on the sideline at the 40-yard line because I need to get one of the coaches for the postgame interview.   So I was trying to get behind one of them and I’m thinking about what I’m gonna say and the whole deal.   When I was looking out on the field I was thinking about everything that would have to happen in the next 10 seconds.   It could be a block that we had to jump on right away or a block that we’re scooping and scoring.   If they get the punt off, I said the game is done because by the time the ball hits the ground and it rolls and that’s 10 seconds gone right there, so when we blocked the snap I’m immediately looking for flags, looking up at the scoreboard to see if time’s ticking down.   It was getting really close at the end, I remember thinking but once he crossed the line I tried to see if there were any flags and then I threw my headset up like I was one of the coaches and started rushing the team like I was part of the team and throwing stuff around.   Then I’m getting yelled at by the press box to get interviews and stuff with everybody and I’m like, ‘Nobody wants to talk to us right now.’   But it was just the most euphoric feeling, like I had against Wisconsin.   It was an incredible feeling.

“I ran out to about the 20-yard line before I said ‘I’m a grown man I’m not part of the team and I had to pull myself together.   I didn’t dive on the pile. Could you imagine seeing that?”

Dan Dierdorf

Dierdorf was an All-American offensive lineman at Michigan in 1970.   He has been inducted into the college and pro football Halls of Fame.   After he retired, he was a television broadcaster and worked 12 seasons as an analyst for ABC’s Monday Night Football and 15 years as part of the NFL on CBS.   He has been color analyst for Michigan football since 2014.

“First and foremost, I’m a professional announcer.   It’s what I do, done all my life since I retired.   When a play like that happens, it is the play-by-play man’s responsibility to deliver the goods.   It’s his call.   It’s his job to call it and it’s my job to stay out of the way.   Factor in I wouldn’t have said anything right away anyway, but factor in the fact I was stunned.

“When I did network television for 30 years, I know a lot of viewers find this hard to believe, but I didn’t care who won or who lost.   I wanted it to be 35-35 in the fourth quarter, I wanted a competitive game with viewers watching and not turning to The Price is Right.

“For the first time in my life, I do care.   Sometimes I care too much, because I’ve got deep feelings for my university.   When that play happened, A. I was stunned and B. my heart was just broken for the Michigan players and everyone in the stadium.   I didn’t say anything for a while.   I said something like, ’I can’t believe what I just saw.’   There’s no analysis necessary there.   We got into it later. I will admit, my TV instincts kicked in there.  In TV you always lay out on a moment like that.   The director is cutting to all the shots.   I may have laid out for five seconds too long but old habits are hard to break.

“In hindsight, 10 things had to happen for Michigan State to score on that play, and it’s so rare when all 10 of them happen.   Of all players for that ball to go to, it goes to the guy who catches it perfectly in full stride heading to the end zone.   It really was one of those plays that the cosmos aligned.   You just don’t see it where everything that Michigan State needed for that to happen, happened.   It’s a once-in-a-generation play.   They don’t come along like that very often.   The fact it was against your arch rival, it was the old saying, we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

“I felt so bad for Blake O’Neill, who when that was over, I was so proud how he handled that.   He’s obviously a hell of a kid.   It was textbook the way he handled that.   He took it like it like a man.   I admired that.

“The big picture, plays like that are really good for college football.   I’m sorry it happened, I’m devastated it happened but if you take two steps back and look at the big picture, it’s great for the game when something [like] that happens.   Plays like that make people love college football.   We took one for the team.   I just wish it would not have happened on my watch.”

Mike Schwab

Schwab was ESPN’s director for the network’s broadcast of the game.

“At that point, you’re reacting.   Funny thing that happened, we’re obviously anticipating a Michigan win.   Our hand-held (camera) guy on the sideline, he has lined up a great shot of Coach Harbaugh, but security moved in because they expected the fans to storm of the field and didn’t want them to trip on the cord.   We’re changing the assignments in the moment which made it chaotic.

“So now they’re coming out, about to snap the ball, camera 6 is out, we’re changing assignments.   You have to get Harbaugh.   Now.  When the touchdown happened, I was kind of like, I’m not sure what we have here, because your instincts take over.   We got the overhead shot of Jalen Watts-Jackson in the end zone with a frame camera there and it was obvious this kid is hurting and can’t get up.

“I was satisfied (with the broadcast) for two reasons.   If that punt had gone off, Michigan wins, I thought we had a really good telecast.   I was happy A to Z with how we covered it.   I’m a perfectionist.   I wish we had shown O’Neill, the punter.   We never got to him in the moment.   I wish we had the Harbaugh shot I know we could have had.   When I separate myself and look at it again, I’m very happy.  Speils, just before the snap, talking about the rugby-style punter, he nailed that.   And for Sean in the moment to get Jalen Watts-Jackson’s name, that’s really, really good.

“For a play that ends a game, that’s the top of the list for me.”

Will Tieman

Tieman is the Spartan Sports Network broadcast host.

“I stayed on the field as long as we could and I still had to get in (the locker room for postgame interviews).   So I’m getting all the stuff, I’m checking everything.   And the Paul Bunyan Trophy is a big deal.   I think that symbolizes a lot of good stuff.   So it’s me and a couple guys and they come get it.   It goes.   Paul’s gone.   It sits right in the middle of the locker room and the loser has to make sure it’s next door when the team shows.

“So I’m in there getting ready for the postgame and they come and get Paul.   I said to (producer) Wendy (Hart), ‘By the way, where are we in this game?’   She goes, ‘There’s about 10 seconds left and they’re gonna punt.’   I go, ‘They’re gonna punt?’   ‘Yeah.’   And then from there, when she hits the mute button to talk to me I don’t hear the guys (in the booth), I only hear her.   All I hear is screaming and yelling and things like, ‘Oh my God.   We got the ball.   Oh my God.   I think we won.’ And I’m screaming back, ‘What is going on?’   I had no idea.

“Except in the middle of her screaming, Paul came back.   It came back.   I’m looking and there’s a security person and a manager-type guy, I don’t know who it was, but I look at those two and it was crazy.   We start laughing and then we started crying we were so happy.   And when you think about it the most exciting postgame locker room we’ve ever done, everybody I talked to saw the play but me.   I did not see the play until we were long off the air, because there are no monitors there.   Now I’ve heard the replays, I know what happened, but I didn’t see it.   I saw it at home.”

An Autopsy of the 2017 Notre Dame Game
Sep 28th, 2017 by 89 Chemistry

Click here to go directly to the Comments.

Spartan offensive inefficiency and Domer efficiency stood out foremost in this game.   Compared to a benchmark 14-15 yards per point and ~.4 points per play, MSU averaged 27.6 yds for each scored point and .21 pts/play [PPP] — both bad.   The Irish averages were 11.5 yds/point and .52 PPP — both above average.   But there was plenty of hidden yardage in this game — usually against MSU.   In checking drive yardage sums, Notre Dame got 60 extra yards to MSU’s negative two.   Chalk that up to penalties.

Both teams were flagged a lot in this game, but MSU had three extra flags enforced for an extra 32 penalty yards.   The media has noted MSU’s three offensive holding penalties.   But I think defensive penalties were more significant.   Ordinarily, one might expect each team to get one or two first downs by penalty.   In this game, MSU got three by penalty — and the Domers got four.   (Not as many as the seven they got in the 2013 game, but certainly helpful.)

MSU had five drives of over 70 yards — scoring points on only two of them.   But it was not penalties that killed the long Spartan drives that led to their total yards advantage.   One was snuffed by the LJ Scott fumble that was called a fumble on the field and not reversed by review.   The second drive ended with six plays inside the Irish 10-yard line — but no points.   (Being down 25 points in the 4th quarter prohibited a field goal try.)   (Taking four minutes to run those goal-line plays, I might add, was an additional waste.)   And the last drive of the game — aided by a Domer personal foul — enabled Lewerke to spike the ball at the Domer 18 with two seconds left.   I do not grok why he did not take a shot at the end zone afterward; not doing so wasted yet another hurry-up scenario and ensured a 20-point loss.   But hey — between the 25s, the offense was great!

To give Lewerke his due, the final two drives chewed up 153 yards on 16 plays in under three minutes — and one of them did end in a TD.   Notre Dame had come into the game allowing only 27% on final-down conversions; the Spartans converted 63%.    Overall, the Spartans gained an extra yard per pass and yard/rush more than what the Irish D had been yielding.   There is much hope for the Spartan O.   But, again, it simply needed to turbo-charge earlier.

Correction: In an earlier Comment, I reported Lewerke’s yards/throw against Notre Dame as 6.5.   That was the team average.   Lewerke averaged 6.7 yds/throw last Saturday.  89C regrets the error.

(Because of the Spartan fumbles’ spots (one a touchback, the other on the MSU 24) and an Irish on-side kick recovery, the Domers did not have to drive as far as MSU to be productive.   The average Domer drive ended up closer to the goal line than the average Spartan drive — by five yards/drive.)

It is true that the D was shredded by the Domer wide receivers — and did not significantly contain Wimbush on the ground.   Notre Dame had been unremarkable [42%] in converting third downs, but converted 57% vs. the Spartans.   MSU did nothing to slow the Irish’s typical ability to get to the red zone and score TDs up close.   What MSU did do was (mostly) contain the starting Irish RBs — and stifled the third-stringer, who got the most carries.   MSU got twice as many rushing tackles for loss on the Irish as their previous foes had averaged.

The Irish had been averaging 28 pts/game off of turnovers, while yielding only two pts/game.   With that in mind, the 21 points off of turnovers MSU ceded (and none scored) does not look so bad.   But that does not excuse the Spartan turnovers.   Nor does it excuse the D for giving up a five play, 80-yards TD drive after LJ Scott lost the football.

No one man was especially disruptive for the defenses — and overall, the disruption ratios were unremarkable.   MSU defended only one of Wimbush’s 20 passes.   The Domers defended 7.5% of MSU’s passes (cf. their 10.5% {PBU + INT} rate coming in to the game).   I lack reliable data to set a baseline on QB hurries in Notre Dame games.   I can say that MSU protected Lewerke (with Lewerke’s help) as well last Saturday as it did vs the MAC opponents (i.e., pretty well); and that MSU pressured Wimbush as well as it pressured the MAC QBs (i.e., pretty well).

Although MSU’s D got a three-and-out after the on-side kick, Newsome pinned MSU at its seven-yard line — the third of his punts downed inside the 20.   MSU’s Hartbarger had none of those last Saturday — and two touchbacks to Newsome’s one.   And while Hartbarger had more net punting yards than Newsome, the hidden yardage of one of Jake’s touchbacks ultimately led to MSU needing 87 yards on a drive where it got 81.

Stewart and Welch had pretty good turns at returning kicks, but not as good as the Irish returned kicks on MSU.   Nothing truly alarming here — C.J. Sanders has three career KR TDs, so things could have been worse — but MSU should not just say “Darius Phillips” and carry on as though there is nothing on which to improve.

ND at MSU – What Did We Learn?
Sep 24th, 2017 by Jeffrey Lubeck

Late in the 4th quarter of the football game between Notre Dame and MSU, the Spartans have the ball 1st and goal inside the five.  As the result of lackluster play and confusion MSU comes away with no points. Broadcast announcer Gus Johnson summed up the situation quickly, “with MSU it is a comedy of errors.”

From my vantage point, the game played out like a Shakespeare or Greek tragedy. As JustABum keenly observed in a comment on the previous post, Notre Dame zeroed in on MSU’s flaws and exposed them to full advantage.  The result; a flogging on the national stage.

Correct or mitigate the implication of the flaws and MSU wins this game – possibly even handily.  However after a full-off season, a spring practice season, a summer preseason camp, and three regular season games MSU has not figured out how to correct, hide, or protect against its biggest flaws.

What did I learn from yesterday’s outing?

  1. Protect the the ball as if your life depended on it – MSU is a winner.
  2. Have the mental awareness and presence of mind to avoid needless personal fouls – MSU is a winner.
  3. With brutal honesty, identify and correct (or mitigate) the biggest flaws of every member in the program and element of the playbook. Start with the biggest flaws and work your way down – MSU is a winner.
  4. If MSU accomplishes none of the above; 2017 will result in a 3-9 or 4-8 kind of season.  For each material improvement add more games to the W column, and 2017 will reveal that MSU is a winner on the football field.
ND at MSU College Football – Game Thread
Sep 23rd, 2017 by Jeffrey Lubeck

The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (better known as South Niles Community College – SNCC) take on the Spartans of Michigan State in East Lansing, MI.  The game will be broadcast on national television on Fox. Gus Johnson, analyst Joel Klatt and, sideline reporter Jenny Taft will call the action from Spartan Stadium starting at 8:00 PM ET.

TUS Predictive Analytics Group (TPAG) says there is an 84% chance of TUS Membership complaining about the T.V. coverage before the kickoff.

A heart-warming story – completely missed by the Fake News – will occur on Saturday night.  The Dotard brothers, Escutcheon and Rocket, compete against each other for the first time. The Michigan natives were orphaned at an early age when their parents Kim and Jong were killed during a quality assurance testing exercise at the Un plant on the north shore of Portage Lake.  The boys grew up in a foster care home on Portage Lake.  “We were so fortunate to live in such a beautiful setting”, says Rocket. “The people were wonderful to us, especially the crazy guy who would scream and throw a green brick at the T.V.”, adds Escutcheon.  “But then again, that logo on the brick and the crazy guy convinced me MSU was going to be the place for me.  What good fortune!”

More Preliminaries on the 2017 Notre Dame Game (and Game Thread?)
Sep 23rd, 2017 by 89 Chemistry

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First, some grist from press conferences:
* Notre Dame guys are downright gabby in their press conferences!   Kelly held another one on Tuesday, and identified Chris Frey as an inside linebacker in his statement.   (To be sure, I do not know who the ILBs are in MSU’s 3-4, but I would think he would be better as the 3-4 SLB than Bullough or Shane Jones.   I would put one of the latter alongside Bachie.)   I get the impression that he thinks MSU runs a 4-4-3.

For the most part, he seemed to imply that MSU was back to its post-2010 norm (“Extremely disciplined, hard-nosed, play to the echo of the whistle…”) — and spun the Spartan O line as a further improvement (“physical, strong, it’s what you would expect, but even more from my eye, much more athletic”).   But schematically, he appeared to throw the gauntlet down at the Spartan defense: “I think if teams are feeling as though playing man-to-man and turning their back on the quarterback is the way they want to defend us, [Wimbush is] going to run a lot.”   Whether Wimbush — with better supporting O linemen than WMU’s QB had — can rack up an uncomfortable amount of rushing yards on MSU will be a part of Dantonio’s “next challenge” for Coach D’s team.   (Additionally, a reporter noted that Wimbush had a ~73% completion rate in high school; if Wimbush grows sufficiently familiar with his receivers by tonight to hit them well, that also could make a difference in the game’s outcome.   The guy has a cannon; once he can set his verniers quickly enough, he is going to make some teams pay dearly.)

(Returning to press vs. zone coverage: Kelly said that Wimbush’s errors were “overthrows” — and he thinks those errors were due to hurrying his throws.   It seems to me that, if MSU can get consistent pressure on Wimbush, there are opportunities to pick passes off with more of a cushion than we would usually condone.

(That may be a big “if”.   Notre Dame is allowing a sack rate of less than 5% (I think the average is ~6.8%), and defending FBS sack leader Harold Landry did not even harry (hurry) Wimbush last week.)

Kelly seemed almost to boast about his tight ends as receivers.   There is some justification for that — but, again, that is partially because the wide receivers have not been really productive.   Look #80 and #86 [Mack & Smythe — both on the Mackey Watch List] to get nearly as many receiving yards as #6 and #15 [St. Brown & Smith].

* Coach Tressel sounds concerned about the Irish O line’s experience and “length” (the starters average 6’5″, 315  lbs.).   The left side contains a 2016 2nd-team All-American (McGlinchey, OT) and a consensus preseason All-American guard (Q. Nelson).   (While center Mustipher is on the Rimington list, he is no Brian Allen.)

* MSU has rotated Kevin Jarvis, Jordan Reid, and Matt Allen into the O line — although they may not contribute often in most games.   The O line will face a simplified defense from 2016 that seems effective against the run.   “They’re just long guys who play with good length and all with good motors,” Brian Allen said of the Irish front seven.   “You can’t take a play off or they’re gonna be in there causing havoc.”   Notre Dame will probably sack Lewerke at some point, but I will be concerned if the Irish get more than two sacks.

* Assistant Head Coach/O-Line Mark Staten put some numbers on Dantonio’s concern about C-gap blocking: “Our tight ends are going to have to face 6-4, 6-5, 295-pound guys every play.”   He “see[s] a lot of athleticism” in the Irish defense

* Staten had two notable reminiscences on Wednesday.   One was on his many trips to Notre Dame games growing up: “I cheered for good football, but one year I had all the pennants from all the other teams they played and they were all in my room because I’d just buy the other pennant.”

The other was on 2010’s “Little Giants” play.   “[Domer LB] Manti Te’o said, ‘We saw the wing go up and talk to the holder,’ because Le’Veon [Bell] was on the field at the time and didn’t get the communication from the sideline.   He got it so quickly that he was like, “Wait, it’s fourth-and-14, that can’t be happening.”   He actually went back, and that’s why they tackled him and the guy that never caught the ball at practice, Charlie [Gantt], ends up making the catch….   [QB coach Brad] Salem was in his first year, maybe his second year here, and he said, ‘Did he call it? Did he call “Little Giants”?’ and I just go, ‘Yeah…’ (laughing)   It’s funny, because he brings that story up to me and I don’t even remember that part of that.   The head coach asks, ‘Is it going to work?’ and you have to say, ‘Yeah Coach, it’s going to work.’   It’s fourth-and-14 you just don’t know if this play is going to work, so hopefully it does (laughing)….    [Holder Aaron] Bates, cool as a cucumber, that’s why he’s an AD now.   He calmly looked to his next read and off it went.”


Sundries and “prediction”:
* Although I think it is a bad idea to count on running against the Spartans, I should probably say something about the Irish ground game.   Josh Adams [#33], his backup [Dexter Williams; #2], and Wimbush have a combined career average of ~6.6 yds/rush.   Adams reached 2000 career rushing yards on fewer carries than any Domer in history — taking the record away from noted Yooper (and Ronald Reagan character) George Gipp.

“Official Kick-Time for the Michigan State vs Notre Dame is 8:12pm- with potential for a 5 minute slide to 8:17pm due to length of 1st game.”

* Safety Grayson Miller was listed as “questionable” for tonight’s game as of Thursday afternoon.

* MSU has, so far, outscored BGSU & WMU, 63-24.   A group of four teams [NW; Idaho; South Dakota; USC] has outscored BGSU & WMU, 159-102.   The early-and-mercilessly-stretched implications are that MSU’s O might score only 2/3 of the points expected from an “average” team — but that the D will allow only 1/3 of the points allowed by an “average” team.   A similar analysis of [Temple; Georgia; BC] suggests that Notre Dame allows ~80 of the points scored by an “average” team — but scores ~180% of the points allowed by an “average” team.

* MSU has a mixed record after bye weeks — but this positive is {afaik} a TUS Exclusive: After a bye week, Dantonio’s Spartans have been underdogs only twice [@IA, 2013; @ Ndme, 2016].   They won both times by an average margin of ~10 points.

* Notre Dame has a very good kicker that will keep them in the game.   I think it will come down to passing and pass defense; unless there are multiple Spartan giveaways, they should win a close game.   After hardly any stat analysis and a bit of Green Kool-Aid, I set my median prediction at Spartans 21, Domers 16.


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