Warning: This article contains many depressing plays from Oregon's recent trip to East Lansing. If you cry easily, you may want to click off while you still can.
Before we dive into this week's breakdown, I want to start with a story from this weekend and ask for your thoughts in the comments. I have a buddy who goes to MSU, so I made the long drive up to East Lansing for the weekend. While we were walking around on campus on Satuday, I was wearing my yellow Mariota jersey. This obviously led to the usual trash talk whenever I crossed a pack of Spartan fans. It was just the usual stuff, Mariota's a bust!, F$%@ the Ducks!, and boos, stuff like that. I always just responded by yelling back "Go Ducks!" and throwing up the 'O'. All stuff I expected.
But later in the day, we were passing a family when a young girl (probably like 6 or 7 years old) got in my face and just started sarcastically quacking in my grill for about five seconds. I had no idea how to respond and was absolutely rattled. So I guess my question is, that was my only option, right? To sit there and accept the quacking? Anyway, East Lansing is a pretty cool campus, just look out for the mean little girls.
Madre London 62-yard run
After a fantastic opening drive from Oregon that gave them an early 7-0 lead, Madre London took the first play from scrimmage for the Michigan State offense 62 yards all the way down to the Oregon 13-yard line.
It's obviously impossible to say that this play unquestionably shifted the way the rest of the game was played, but this play got the Michigan State crowd back into the game after a long (relatively speaking) drive by Oregon to open the game. If MSU stumbles out of the gate and has to punt back to Oregon with the potential to go down 14-0, we could be looking at a totally different option.
This play was a perfect combination of great run blocking by Michigan State, an unfortunate defensive call and poor linebacking play from Oregon.
MSU runs a pretty standard dive play to the weak side of their line. The unfortunate call for Oregon is a defensive line stunt, where they have DeForest Buckner stunt towards the strong side of the formation and have defensive tackle Alex Balducci crash down towards the gap that Buckner is abandoning. At the same time, the Ducks send safety Tyree Robinson on a blitz off the edge.
The problem is that the play Michigan State has called is running directly at the gap that Buckner is vacating. Since Balducci can't cover the gap quick enough, Michigan State is able to seal the inside edge very easily.
There are two Oregon defenders who really struggle on this play. Christian French, the defensive end on the weak side, allows the MSU tackle to seal the outside edge way too easily. The second is linebacker Rodney Hardrick who gets sucked up too close to the line of scrimmage and can't get over to make a play on London.
So with Buckner stunting out of his lane, French unable to shed his blocker and Hardrick getting sealed by the guard (who has no one to block because of Buckner's stunt), London has an enormous hole to run through all the way to the second level of the defense. Then to make matters worse, we have to cycle back to the blitzing safety Robinson, who is now in the backfield instead of in position to make a tackle on London downfield.
Throw a little salt in the wound with a missed tackle by Reggie Daniels, and we have a huge run by Madre London that later turns into the first touchdown of the day for the Spartans.
Vernon Adams pass intercepted by RJ Williamson
With Oregon down 14-7 late in the 2nd quarter, the Ducks were driving to tie the game up. After a big pass play to Bralon Addison that brought the Ducks near midfield, Vernon Adams threw his second interception of the game on a deep pass intended for Charles Nelson.
I picked this play not only because it was a pivotal play in this game, but also because it was a perfect example of the night Vernon Adams had in East Lansing.
The play begins with Oregon motioning Charles Nelson down to the wide side of the field, giving the Ducks four receivers on that side of the field. When the play begins, Oregon fakes a screen look to Devon Allen in the flats, with Bralon Addison and Dwayne Stanford faking blocks on their corners. The motion man Nelson runs a delayed wheel route up the sideline.
The fake screen works, as both Stanford and Nelson are free down the right side, with only one safety over the top. Addison runs a third fly route up the middle of the field to keep the weak side safety from rotating over and helping in coverage.
If Vernon Adams is able to get this pass off right here, its probably a long completion to Nelson, before the safety is able to rotate over. However, as soon as Adams spots his target, he has a MSU lineman in his face, as the Oregon guard was pushed back into his quarterbacks face.
This makes Adams - a smaller quarterback - maneuver a bit in the pocket to try and find some space to get rid of his pass. By the time he does that, the safety has completely rotated over and his now in prime position to read the pass out of Adams hand and jump the route in front of Nelson.
Whenever Vernon Adams name is brought up, at some point his height becomes a talking point. I never thought this point held any water, but against MSU it was clear that the height of the gigantic MSU frontline gave Adams fits. Across the board, the MSU defensive line is listed at 6'-5", 6'-6", 6'-6", and 6'-4". The Spartans did a great job of keeping Adams in the pocket and pressuring him in there, making him eat the ball and take a lot of sacks, or make bad decisions like on this pass.
Vernon Adams sacked by Chris Frey and Lawrence Thomas for a 10-yard loss
After Vernon Adams missed a wide open Byron Marshall on a shot to the end zone on the play before, the Oregon quarterback was sacked on 3rd and 6, forcing the Ducks into a fourth and long to keep the game alive.
Michigan State runs an absolutely beautiful and gutsy blitz package on this play, rushing seven and dropping five into coverage. Before the snap, MSU is showing blitz from the right side of the formation with a linebacker lined up between the center and right guard.
However at the snap, the LB who was showing blitz drops out and the Spartans instead send their other inside LB and the corner back off the edge from the strong side. The blitzing LB stunts with the defensive end, freezing Oregon's left guard, Matt Pierson.
Vernon Adams probably has open receivers and probably steps up to run a second too quickly, but it's hard to place too much of the blame on him for this one. This was a great, ballsy call from Michigan State that ended up winning the Spartans the game.
Bralon Addison Back Juke(s) of the Week
Well that was depressing. Time for something happy to end the article with. How about we look at not one, but two awesome Bralon Addison okie doke jukes, the second of which led to a punt return touchdown?
We missed you, Bralon.