2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 1 - Youngstown St at Mich St
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Sept. 1 Michigan State 28 … Youngstown State 6
CFN Analysis: Don’t get caught up in the box score or the 28-6 final; Michigan State controlled this game with a true preseason mindset. There wasn’t anything flashy, outside of a few nice plays by B.J. Cunningham, but it was an easy, work-the-kinks-out performance with Kirk Cousins playing extremely efficiently and effectively completing 18-of-22 passes. He got time to work, and the offensive front did a nice job of powering away for a running game that couldn’t break off many big runs, but was physical. With Florida Atlantic up next before Notre Dame, don’t expect anything other than a truly vanilla gameplan; the Spartans aren’t going to show off much of anything. These first few games will get everyone’s feet wet on the lines that need a little time, especially on the offensive side, and for this game, it was mission accomplished.
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- B.J. Cunningham caught nine passes for 130 yards and a touchdown, moving into a tie for first on Michigan State's career receptions list in the No. 17 Spartans' 28-6 victory over Youngstown State on Friday night.
Kirk Cousins threw for 222 yards for Michigan State, which tied for the Big Ten title last season but wasn't especially dominant against the Penguins of the Football Championship Subdivision. The Spartans led 14-6 in the third quarter when Cousins threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Cunningham, who held on despite tight coverage in the back of the end zone.
Le'Veon Bell added his second 3-yard touchdown run of the game to make it 28-6 in the fourth.
Cunningham has 148 receptions, equaling Matt Trannon's mark.
Cousins completed 18 of 22 passes, and Edwin Baker ran for 91 yards for Michigan State.
Youngstown State's Kurt Hess threw for 126 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Michigan State took a big step forward last season, winning 11 games and sharing the conference crown with Wisconsin and Ohio State, but the Spartans ended on a sour note, losing 49-7 to Alabama in the Capital One Bowl.
They looked out of sorts at times Friday, committing seven first-half penalties. Michigan State cut down on the infractions in the second half, but there were still some frustrating moments. Dan Conroy missed a 27-yard field goal in the fourth quarter with a horrific shank, kicking the ball low and way to the left.
But the Spartans got the ball back quickly on an interception by Isaiah Lewis, which set up Bell's second touchdown.
Michigan State began the game on a heartwarming note when offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr. took the field, four years after being treated for cancer in his left leg. Ray underwent chemotherapy shortly after signing with the Spartans in 2007, and a subsequent infection postponed his comeback until now.
Coach Mark Dantonio indicated earlier this week that Ray wasn't able to practice much because of the stress on his leg, but he was in at left guard for Michigan State's first offensive play of the season. The Spartans called a pass, Ray blocked effectively, then he came out of the game.
The underdog Penguins held their own in the first half, controlling the ball for 19:36 thanks to a 14-8 advantage in first downs. After a scoreless opening quarter, Michigan State finally took the lead on a 6-yard touchdown run by Larry Caper.
The Spartans forced a punt, but Keshawn Martin muffed it, and Youngstown State then drove 62 yards in nine plays. Hess threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jelani Berassa, but the Penguins couldn't tie it. Michigan State's Jerel Worthy blocked the extra point.
Cousins found Cunningham on a deep pass over the middle for a 55-yard gain on the Spartans' next offensive play, and Bell scored on a 3-yard run to make it 14-6.
Youngstown State went 3-8 last season, although the Penguins led at some point in every game they played. They never took the lead against Michigan State.
Youngstown State (0-0) at Michigan State (0-0)
Sept. 2, 7:30, BTN
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Here’s The Deal …
After the way Michigan State got throttled by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl, it needs something positive, even if it comes eight months later. More than that, this is all about getting all the parts in place for a team with a good base, but needing some young players to shine right away. With this game, and with Florida Atlantic ahead, the Spartans will get two games to get everything in place before the showdown at Notre Dame. All that matter right now is tuning up and preparing for the Irish. Win that, and it’s a 4-0 start before going to Ohio State.
For Youngstown State, it’s about collecting a heavy payout at the expense of an opening season loss, but it’s experienced with a host of skill position standouts from last year’s team returning. In spite of the likely drilling it’ll receive, it’s an opportunity for good-looking young players like quarterback Kurt Hess to react against much faster competition.
Why Youngstown State Might Win: This isn’t the strongest of Missouri Valley teams, but it appears to be far better than last year when it struggled through a 3-8 season. Hess started all 11 games as a freshman and has enough talent to be a good leader and a solid playmaker, and while that might not matter against the Spartans, he’ll be able to let it rip against a reworked secondary. Running back Jamaine Cook is coming off a near 1,300-yard rushing campaign, and he’ll get a chance to show what he can do against an elite defensive line with NFL bodies hunting him down.
The key for the Penguins is to not get too beaten down too early. MSU will try to show a little balance, but it’ll come out blasting away. This is the opener for the Spartans, and they aren’t likely to be fully jelled and might not be dominant out of the gate. It took a few games for everything to kick in for last year’s team.
Why Michigan State Might Win: Assuming the Spartans show up to the game in full pads there shouldn’t be a problem against a team that’s not expected to make much noise in the Missouri Valley. Michigan State might have a few issues, and most of the time the FCS opponent will provide some sort of a push, Youngstown State doesn’t have the horses. The secondary is a particular problem, and MSU QB Kirk Cousins shouldn’t be under any pressure to fire away at will. Cousins likely won’t sniff the second half, and if he does, he’ll be able to get by just handing the ball off.
Amid questions along the offensive line at tackle and center, head coach Mark Dantonio declared this summer that there’s more depth there than ever before, and now it’ll be a chance to see it in action. On the other side, led by Jerel Worthy and Kevin Pickelman in the middle, the defensive line should be able to do whatever it wants to against the YSU offensive line, while the young linebackers and secondary should get plenty of good reps – they need this preseason game.
What To Watch Out For: After losing Greg Jones and Eric Gordon, Michigan State has to get its linebacking corps in place of the first few games before dealing with Notre Dame. Rumors have floated around that five-star freshman Lawrence Thomas’ shoulder injury might force some redshirt talk, but if he’s in the mix, he could be an answer. While he’s out, freshmen Ed Davis and Taiwan Jones have stepped up in his stead. The spotlight is on, and if the new linebackers can shine right away behind the tremendous defensive front, all of a sudden, MSU could once again be a real, live player in the Big Ten race.
For Youngstown State, this is the chance for Hess to announce himself to the world. He was a little too over-reliant on one player last year on Dominique Barnes, who graduated, and now the goal is to spread the ball around. If Hess has any success, it could be a confidence-builder.
What Will Happen: Michigan State will be able to do whatever it wants. Dantonio doesn’t have a rep for running up the score, but that might not be avoided simply by running the ball over and over again. The Spartans will feature three good tailbacks and there won’t be a drop-off no matter who’s running, and it’ll take plenty of work to keep the score down.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 45 ... Youngstown State 3
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