November 18, 2011
SpartanMag.Com: Week 10 HOT List
SpartanMag.com's 11-man Hot List, from Michigan State's 37-21 victory over Iowa, last Saturday: The first play of Iowa's second drive, Worthy displaced the LG. (Meanwhile, William Gholston bashed the fullback and got a piece of Coker, and Trenton Robinson made the tackle, gain of 1).
1. Jerel Worthy: Michigan State's defensive line was the dominant unit of the game, and no one had a bigger hand in its dominance than Worthy. The junior defensive tackle didn't register a tackle, but he repeatedly created a negative bulge in the Hawkeye offensive line, causing running plays to bounce and cut in ways that were advantageous for the Spartans. Iowa RB Marcus Coker was held to 2 yards or less on the majority of his carries. Each time, Worthy had a big hand in making it happen and often set the tone for Iowa three-and-outs.
The first play of Iowa's fourth drive, Worthy and Kevin Pickelman displaced the C and RT, each by a half yard. The RB had to make an untimely cut (Chris Norman made the tackle, for a gain of 1).
The first play after MSU took a 17-7 lead, Worthy shifted to nose guard due to TE motion. He bowled through the LG and ransacked an attempted inside zone lead. (Gholston got off the RT to assist with Robinson in making the tackle).
If anyone thought Worthy and the defense might take the second half off, after building a 31-7 lead, Worthy ended doubts by driving the right guard back four yards on a zone play to Worthy's side, bouncing the play. (Max Bullough made the tackle for for a gain of 1).
After MSU took a 17-7 lead, Worthy beat the Iowa left guard, penetrated and made the initial hit on Coker. Coker did well to get back to the line of scrimmage.
Worthy also blocked a field goal attempt late in the first half.
2. Max Bullough: With the d-line dominating the line of scrimmage, Michigan State's sophomore Mike linebacker patrolled the middle with force. He led MSU with 12 tackles. Bullough had two TFL on the game, and key second-half pass break-ups on third and fourth downs.
3. The rest of the Spartan d-line regulars: Gholston, Pickelman, White, Rush. Not enough can be said about the job they did against the Iowa o-line, which had been an area of strength for the Hawkeyes prior to this game. The best example: When Iowa was pinned at its own 2-yard line late in the first half, Gholston pushed Iowa's Riley Reiff, a junior left tackle whom Mel Kiper[/db] projects as a first-round draft pick next spring, 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage, bouncing the ball carrier toward Marcus Rush, who engulfed Coker for no gain. Kevin Pickelman and Anthony Rashad White each had three or four loud, impressive plays in this game as well.
4. Chris Norman: Seeing action for the first time since the Wisconsin game, Norman came with terrific physical intensity - probably the most we've seen out him in his career, outside of the toughness he has shown against Michigan. SpartanMag.com charted him with five "plus" plays, the most in a single game in his career, starting with hard hit on Coker on a zone lead on the first series on first-and-15, holding the RB to a gain of 2, with some physical toll to go with it. It was one of the more solid, physical, instinctive and, yes, veteran plays of Norman's career - and possibly a sign of good, consistent, play-making to come.
Later, on second-and-10, he got off a wham block, and made the initial hit on Coker, holding it to a gain of 1 (Pickelman held the point of attack against the left guard).
Norman also had a heavy freaking on a pass intended for Coker, breaking up the pass and almost knocking it into the arms of Rush, with 9:00 left.
Norman turned in one of the more important hidden plays of the game when he chased Coker down from behind, coming off the edge on a run blitz, and tackling Coker after a gain of 5 on third-and-six in the fourth quarter. Iowa had room on that play, surprising MSU with an inside zone against the nickel defense in a passing situation. Norman busted his tail to chase it down from behind and tackle Coker short of first-down yardage. Then Iowa went with a quick huddle QB sneak and was flagged for illegal procedure. Iowa then was stopped on foruth-and-six with 10:30 left in the game. If Norman doesn't make a hustling stop on that play, there is no fourth-down stoppage, at a time when the outcome was still in doubt and Iowa had momentum.
If Norman played like this every week, he would be All-Big Ten.
5. Johnny Adams: Adams turned in an early game-changer when he intercepted an Iowa pass intended for WR Keenan Davis on a deep go route. Adams had the speed to get on top, close him off, body him up, look back for the ball, make a play on it, then finish the grab. His return put MSU in position to go up 14-0.
Adams wasn't perfect. He was in coverage when Marvin McNutt went deep for 48 yards in the third quarter. But Adams volunteered to cover McNutt all over the field in the late going, and put a lid on him - including an excellent pass break-up on fourth-and-eight with 4:22 left (a play that was nullified by Gholston's personal foul).
Still, "Johnny Five" came alive at crucial times in this game.
6. Kirk Cousins: His galvanizing leadership aside, Cousins was excellent in this game, going 18-of-31 for 260 with 3 TDs and no interceptions. In one of the most hostile environments on the schedule, a place housing many ghosts of Cousins' past, the senior slinger was on target. He fumbled two snaps, at least one of which was his fault. He also collided with a fullback for another fumble. Aside from the three TDs, he took it up to a championship level with the read, the choice, the accuracy and the zip on a critical third-and-8 crossing route to Le'Veon Bell for 45 yards, keying a field goal drive which pushed the lead to 16 points with 5:11 to play.
7. Le'Veon Bell: The sophomore has emerged as one of the top running backs in the Big Ten. He went for 112 yards on 20 carries (5.6 yards per attempt), in addition to 2 catches for 49 yards. Bell ran with power and wiggle, including a tone-setting 6-yard jaunt on third-and-one on MSU's opening drive. He had the vision and cutting ability to go 25 yards on a TD to make it 24-7 late in the first half, plus a trademark stiff-arm to DE Broderick Binns. No facemask penalty on the stiff-arm this time. Hurdling CB Micah Hyde on a 4-yard gain is just how RBs coach Brad Salem drew it up. (Kidding.)
8. Brian Linthicum: The senior tight end had the most productive game of his career, making 5 catches for 71 yards, including a 28-yarder off a double-reverse pass. Linthicum was named the national John Mackey Tight End of the Week by the Nassau County Sports Commission for his performance. MSU worked the TE into the gameplan a bit more this week, especially with the short out to the strong side, throwing into the wake of the bailing cover-two corner. MSU also was able to get the TE into the middle seam between the safeties for a gain of 21 on the first play of he fourth quarter, after being thwarted on that play in the past two weeks. This time, Linthicum took it wider off the line of scrimmage, bellied out, and then got upfield, changing the look for the route. The o-line provided time for the QB to get it to Linthicum on that one. Tight end blocking, overall, was much better in this game in past week. Linthicum delivered a good down block during an Edwin Baker gain of 10 on power to the TE side.
9. B.J. Cunningham: Cousins didn't have to go to Cunningham a lot, but when he did, the university's all-time receptions leader came through like a pro. Cunningham worked free on a new-look stutter slant for a TD on MSU's first drive. Then he went up for a high, backward-falling, balletic TD grab to give MSU a 31-7 lead - again with MSU helping to shake him free with a change of pace, this time a pump fake to the flat. Not only did Cunningham come through, but MSU showed new wrinkles designed to get him free. It wasn't Cunningham's best day as a blocker, however. He missed a block on a new-look, third-and-three draw/power out of the shot gun with 5:00 left in the third quarter.
10. Joel Foreman: Foreman played through pain a week earlier against Minnesota, and missed the final series of this game with some sort of upper body trauma, but during the time in between, he played like a healthy horse. On Baker's first carry, a 13-yarder, Foreman bashed the nose guard backward. It wasn't enough to secure the block, Foreman had to bash him and send a message of physical nastiness that was to come the rest of the day. Later, Foreman pulled and delivered a good lead block on the MLB to spring Baker for a gain of 10 on a power.
11. Mike Sadler: Give the punter a slight nod over Baker and Denicos Allen. Sadler was a weapon against the Hawkeyes, averaging 46.2 yards per punt, including three inside Iowa's 20-yard line. Sadler is seventh in the nation in pinning punts inside the 10-yard line, having done it nine times. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for his efforts.
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