By LARRY LAGE/AP Sports Writer
KALMAZOO, Mich. (AP) – Michigan State identified some flaws in its season-opening win at Western Michigan.READ MORE: Oxford Schools Superintendent Issues Statement After Tragedy In Texas
Oregon took note of them, too.
The fifth-ranked Spartans did do enough to beat the Broncos 37-24 Friday night, but they had some glaring problems in all three facets of the game.
“We made some mistakes that got to be cleaned up,” coach Mark Dantonio said.
Michigan State gave up 170 yards on its first two kickoffs. Connor Cook completed less than half of his passes despite having plenty of time most of the time and not getting sacked once. The Spartans allowed up more yards passing than they had in a regular season game since 2010 in their first game since defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi left to lead Pittsburgh.
Clearly, the Spartans have to improve before hosting the seventh-ranked Ducks next week in what could be a pivotal prime-time matchup.
“No doubt, that’s a big game,” running back Madre London said after scoring two touchdowns in his college debut. “We’ve got to make big-time plays. We can’t come out like we did.”
The Spartans looked like they came out flat in their opener, allowing Darius Phillips to take the first kickoff from his end zone to their 30. Michigan State gained just 20 yards the first time it had the ball. On its second kickoff, Phillips scored on a 100-yard return to tie the game.READ MORE: Michigan Senate Blocks Gun Storage Vote
Cook looked poised when he dropped back into perfect pockets, but was off on enough of his throws to complete 15 of 31 passes. He connected on fewer than half of his attempts in just two games in each of the previous two seasons.
Even though Michigan State knew Western Michigan was going to pass a lot, in part because they shut down and shook up standout running back Jarvion Franklin, it often let receivers easily get into open space and pick up a lot of yards after catches
Zach Terrell threw for 365 yards, the most yards given up through the air by the Spartans since a game against Notre Dame five years ago. Corey Davis had 154 yards receiving and a TD on 10 receptions and Daniel Braverman caught 13 passes for 109 yards for the Broncos. The Spartans hadn’t allowed two opponents to have 100 yards receiving in a regular season game since 2009 against Northwestern, according to STATS.
If Spartans don’t get better at kicking off, throwing the ball and defending the pass, the result might be similar to the last one against the Ducks.
Marcus Mariota helped Oregon rally last year at home from a nine-point deficit in the third quarter and score four straight touchdowns over the last 20 in a 46-27 victory against Michigan State.
The Heisman Trophy winner, drafted No. 2 overall by Tennessee, isn’t around anymore to slice through the Spartans’ secondary. An experienced player, though, is taking Mariota’s place. Vernon Adams was expected to make his debut for the Ducks on Saturday against Eastern Washington, the school he transferred from after earning his degree and throwing for 10,000-plus yards and 110 TDs over three years.
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