CFN Analysis - MSU's big day from Bell
Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell
Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Sep 1, 2012


The CFN analysis of Michigan State's 17-13 win over Boise State.

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Michigan State 17, Boise St 13
 
 
 
By Pete Fiutak
Follow Us ... @ColFootballNews

Welcome to the big early storyline of the 2012 college football season. Ladies and gentlemen, Michigan State would like to present Le’Veon Bell. He just carried his team to a much, much better win than anyone will probably give MSU credit for.

Even after all the success and all the big wins and all the victories over BCS conference teams, Boise State still doesn’t get any respect. It had to replace nine starters on defense – and yet the D came up with four takeaways and allowed just 17 points on the road. Joe Southwick could never replace Kellen Moore, and while he struggled, he didn’t get any help from his running game and had to go against a defense that’s probably the best in the Big Ten. That was a Rose Bowl-caliber Spartan team that the Broncos had to deal with, and still, despite all the problems, all the mistakes and all the turnover in personnel, they had a lead in the fourth quarter and chances late to win the game.

But they didn’t have Le’Veon Bell.

As much as Boise State is going to miss having the winningest starting quarterback in college football history, Southwick is expected to be a decent replacement for Kellen Moore. What the Broncos don’t have is another Doug Martin, and word was this offseason that his departure to the NFL was going to hurt far more than the loss of Moore. However, while Boise State was held to 37 rushing yards on 24 carries, remember, again, this was an elite defense it had to deal with.

The hope for Michigan State was that the phenomenal D , a strong offensive line and the emergence of Bell would be enough to carry the team through the transitional period in the passing game, and while it wasn’t pretty, everything went according to plan.

Andrew Maxwell struggled and the receiving corps didn’t come up with enough big plays, but this was Game One for all the new starters and Boise State can actually play a little big of defense. That’s why what Bell did was so phenomenal.

To put his 2120 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards into perspective, remember, like this year, Boise State had to replace a ton of talent in 2009 but still managed to hold LeGarrette Blount, LaMichael James and Oregon to 31 rushing yards. In the 2010 opener, the Broncos held Virginia Tech and its stable of now-NFL backs to 128 yards. Last year, Georgia gained 137 yards on the ground with 80 coming on one play. This is a program that knows how to stuff a running game, and Bell ran over, around and through in a Heisman-caliber performance.

Get used to it. Bell is that good.

By Richard Cirminiello 

I think no less of Michigan State than I did in the morning. But I think a whole lot more of Boise State before this game in East Lansing began.

The Spartans struggled far more than I expected, and new starting QB Andrew Maxwell has a long way to go before earning the confidence of his coaches. Yet, much like South Carolina against Vanderbilt on Thursday night, Michigan State did what it needed to survive a very close call. And the combination of the team’s defense and the tough running of Le’Veon Bell might still be enough for this school to achieve its goal of finishing the season in Pasadena.

I’ve always marveled at the work of Boise State head coach Chris Petersen. The guy is one of the best in the game, a real gem among college coaches on so many levels. However, even in losing this evening, my appreciation for his work with the Broncos reached an all-time high. His young team, which returned just five starters and was basically gutted to the studs, had absolutely no business leading this game midway through the fourth quarter. It did, despite getting almost nothing from the Joe Southwick-led offense.

This is not a vintage Boise State team. How could it be? It was, still, another vintage effort out of Petersen and his staff, who had what should have been an overmatched team in a position late to deliver a most unexpected upset on the road.

By Matt Zemek
 
In a taut, tense college football season opener between two mistake-plagued but very formidable teams, many plays are going to be scrutinized and pointed to, given their centrality in shaping the outcome. Yet, the play that stands out the most in Michigan State's hard-earned win over a gallant opponent from Boise State University was a play that did not lead directly to points.

Sure, Dion Sims's late-stage pass catches on third downs were instrumental in pushing the Spartans across the finish line. Unquestionably, Boise State had two open receivers on downfield passes inside the six-minute mark, and barely missed them. A direct hit on either pass would have given the Broncos a first and goal with a chance to take a 20-17 lead.

Undeniably, MSU coach Mark Dantonio's timeout on fourth and two – with Boise at the Spartans' 42 late in the game – proved to be an immensely important and decisive coaching move on Friday night in East Lansing, Mich. Yet, in a confrontation that was suspenseful despite its lack of elegance, the play that stood above the rest was a play that was not part of a scoring drive.

Trailing 13-10 in the third quarter, Michigan State faced third and 15 at its own 4. The Spartans, seemingly conceding a possession by not wanting shaky quarterback Andrew Maxwell to throw from his own end zone, ran the ball into the middle of the line. Running back Le'Veon Bell ran into a wall of Boise State defenders at the line of scrimmage. Several seconds later, he was on the ground… at the 39-yard line. He did to Boise's defense what Tommie Frazier did to Florida's defense in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. Michigan State fumbled shortly thereafter, but here's why that play was so important: It flipped the field.

Had Boise State forced that punt from the MSU 4, the Broncos might have gotten a drive start inside the Spartans' 40. Given the extent to which Michigan State's defense manhandled Boise State's offensive line at the point of attack, the Broncos' best chance to score an offensive touchdown rested on the ability to not just force a punt, but force said punt from the end zone.

When Bell flipped the field, Boise State lost its last best chance to score (the fourth-quarter near-misses on long balls notwithstanding). Plays that don't score can still cast a long and interesting shadow over an exhilarating sporting event. Credit Le'Veon Bell not just for being a remarkable workhorse, but for delivering the clutch play Michigan State needed in a time of crisis.

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

Defensively, it was everything anyone in East Lansing could have wanted.

The Spartans D didn’t allow a touchdown. It held Boise State to just 14 first downs – only five in the critical second half. It limited the explosive Broncos offense to a paltry 206 total yards, and held the team without a first half touchdown for the first time in 26 games.

Most importantly, MSU corralled BSU to just 37 rushing yards. Indeed, this Spartans defense looked downright SEC-esque.

Then there’s the Spartans offense.

Did I mention the defense was excellent?

Michigan State’s dark horse shot at a BCS championship game was rescued by junior running back Le'Veon Bell and his 44 gut-check carries for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Bell’s previous record for carries had been less than half that (20), in a win at Iowa last season.

The 6-2, 244 pound Bell will likely be everyone’s focal point for the rest of the season. However, for the Spartans to make it to Pasadena…or further… rookie quarterback Andrew Maxwell will have to play with a lot more poise than his three interception, no touchdown performance Friday.

Settle down, Maxwell.
 
Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

Though the story of this night would appear to be Le’Veon Bell, something is lurking in the shadows.

Yes, Bell had a monster day. Toting the rock 44 times for 210 yards (4.8 ypc) and two scores screams look at me. The junior out of Central Ohio was the best player on the field and will continue to give opposing defenses fits the remainder of the year. That’s not the problem.

The problem, is that Kirk Cousins is not under center any longer. And for those of you that believed Andrew Maxwell could simply insert himself into the Sparty party and keep things rolling along in East Lansing, then this game should be seen as a dose of reality.

You simply can’t lose an all-everything three-year starter at QB, as well as almost the entire starting wide-receiving corps and not struggle on offense. It came to a head tonight.

Yes Boise played well on defense, but time after time the receivers dropped passes, Maxwell forced throws, and the offensive line got pushed around by a Bronco defensive unit that is in a bit of re-build mode. And time after time Le’Veon Bell and the defense bailed the Spartan offense out.

Do you hear the ticking?

MSU should absolutely feel good about toughing things out and moving on against a solidly coached Boise State squad. The defense was stout, and the running game dependable. But somewhere down the road, when the offense continues to hit potholes, the defense and running game will fail and not be able to pave the way to a Big Ten title.

You’re on the clock Andrew Maxwell.

By Terry Johnson
Please Follow me on Twitter @TPJCollFootball

- What else can you say about Le'Veon Bell? Everyone in the stadium knew that Bell was going to get the ball in fourth quarter, yet the Broncos could not stop him.

- Based on how they played tonight, there's no reason why Michigan State cannot post a double-digit win total for the third consecutive year. Sure, this Boise team isn't as strong as its been in years past, but the Spartans managed to win this game despite shooting themselves in the foot on virtually every drive in the first three quarters.

- Mark Dantonio's defense picked up right where it left off last year. The front seven dominated the line of scrimmage all night, holding the Broncos to 38 yards on 24 carries. They also managed to keep Boise's offense out of the endzone, something that not even a top ten team like Georgia was able to do last year.

- The Bronco defense was just as impressive. While everyone thinks of Boise as an offensive team, the defense repeatedly forced turnovers to kill Spartan drives. That's not a bad effort for a unit that only returned two starters from a year ago.

- Despite the loss, don't expect much of a drop off for Boise this season. The Broncos were literally just one deep ball away from pulling off the upset tonight, and should be favored in every game the rest of the way.

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

Defensively, it was everything anyone in East Lansing could have wanted.

The Spartans D didn’t allow a touchdown. It held Boise State to just 14 first downs – only five in the critical second half. It limited the explosive Broncos offense to a paltry 206 total yards, and held the team without a first half touchdown for the first time in 26 games.

Most importantly, MSU corralled BSU to just 37 rushing yards. Indeed, this Spartans defense looked downright SEC-esque.

Then there’s the Spartans offense.

Did I mention the defense was excellent?

Michigan State’s dark horse shot at a BCS championship game was rescued by junior running back Le'Veon Bell and his 44 gut-check carries for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Bell’s previous record for carries had been less than half that (20), in a win at Iowa last season.

The 6-2, 244 pound Bell will likely be everyone’s focal point for the rest of the season. However, for the Spartans to make it to Pasadena…or further… rookie quarterback Andrew Maxwell will have to play with a lot more poise than his three interception, no touchdown performance Friday.

Settle down, Maxwell.