Michigan State’s 2011 Season in Review

by on November 27th, 2014
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The Michigan State Spartans went 11-3, 7-1 in the Big Ten, winning the first ever Legends Division title and beating Georgia in the Outback Bowl. Here’s a recap of the Spartans 2011 season:

1. Defense wins games AND championships
The Spartans held five teams to a TD or less, shutting out Florida Atlantic and allowing a meaningless FG to Indiana. That doesn’t even begin to describe how suffocating the Spartan defense was at times. Out of 14 games, only Wisconsin, and inexplicably, Minnesota, topped 400 yards of offense. Florida Atlantic was held to a mind-blowing 48 yards despite facing the Spartans 2nd string most of the 2nd half. Neither Central Michigan (118) or Ohio State (178) could top 200 yards. In the remaining games, only Iowa (349), Northwestern (370), Wisconsin in the Big ten championship (345), and Georgia (339) topped 300 yards. the defense was ranked 5th in the country in Yards/game. The other four were all SEC squads.

2.) Spartans show the Wolverines, and the rest of the nation, that their defenses stats weren’t inflated by a weak schedule.
On College Gameday, when asked about the Spartans’ 5th ranked pass defense, Lee Corso stated, “They haven’t played anyone. The only team they’ve played hammered them.” Once again, coming into the rivalry game, Robinson was being hailed as a Heisman contender. Once again the Spartan defense corralled and harrassed him. Michigan accounted for 250 yards of total offense, and Robinson went a very un-Heismanlike 9 of 24. The talk, just like the previous year, of Robinson’s Heisman candidacy disappears.

3.) Michigan State upsets no. 4 Wisconsin on a Hail Mary pass.
In one of the most exciting games of the season, Wisconsin ties the game with less than a minute to go. With 4 seconds left in the game, Cousins heaves a pass towards the end zone. the ball bounces off B.J. Cunningham’s face mask into th waiting arms of Keith Nichol, who then bulls his way into the endzone.

4.) Wisconsin wins the rematch for the inaugural Big Ten championship.
In a back and forth game between the best two teams in the Big Ten, Wiscon takes the lead 42-39. Forced to punt, they line up on 4th and 4, as the Spartans line to block it and the ever dangerous Keshawn martin, who’d beat the Badgers in 2010 on a punt return, settled to return the kick. The Badgers’ punter barely gets the kick off, and Martin returns the ball to the Badger 3 yard line, setting up, at the minimum, an overtime game. Unfortunately, just after the punt was sent off, Spartans’ safety Lewis hit the punter. Running into the punter, 5 yard penalty, Wisconsin ball. Game over. Too bad for Lewis too as he’d been making plays all season.

5.) Spartans win Outback Bowl
Mark Dantonio had done many great things in East Lansing since he’d been hired. He’d won a share of the Big Ten title. He’d beaten Michigan 4 straight years. He’d beaten every team in the Big Ten except newcomer Nebraska. He’d won the inaugural Legends (that name really needs to go) Division. But he had never won a bowl game. Not only that, he’d lost both of the previous times he’d faced Georgia, and been hammered in 2010 by Alabama. Down 16-0 at the half, most of the media were predicting more of the same. Not if the defense had anything to do with it. At the end of the game, the numbers were staggering. 18 tackles for a loss. 4 sacks. 2 interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD. A fumble recovery and a blocked FG. Georgia had come into the game averaging 413/game. They amassed 339 yards total, including only 51 yards rushing.

6.) A strange loss in South Bend
If you looked at the box score, Michigan State was embarrassed in South Bend. After all, they lost 31-13. But the game was strange from the beginning. If you outgain a team 358-275, you’d think that score was reversed. Generally, teams that win the turnover margin, as Michigan State did 3-2, win. The Irish, noted as a passing team, were also outgained through the air 329-161. But the Spartans couldn’t run the ball, and couldn’t take advantage of all the turnovers. In fact, on two of the Irish turnovers, the Spartans gave it right back. The other killer was the Spartans overly aggressive defense was also burned for big plays.

7.) The offense disappears against Nebraska
The Spartan defense held the Cornhuskers to 270 yards of total offense. The Cornhuskers spent the whole game in a Cover 2, dared the Spartans to run and find another receiver that wasn’t named Cunningham. MSU coldn’t do either, gaining 187 yards the whole game. this was the beginning of the end for Edwin Baker as a starter. After struggling all year, he watched as Le’Veon Bell basically did the only scoring drive himself. From this point on, Bell would take more and more carries, and Baker would get less and less, with the low point being his two carries against Georgia.

Game stats provided by www.rivals.com

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