No I haven’t lost it completely, so don’t judge me by the title. Sure, I am not entirely sane but that has nothing to do with the matter at hand. The Spartans are lost when it comes to throwing the football, any arguments? (*crickets*) I didn’t think so. The question is, are they lost like Japanese soldiers on a Pacific atoll who aren’t aware the war is over or is there some shred of hope they will emerge from the fog? Despite the painful, woeful, hideous performance against Eastern Michigan the answer is yes, there is hope, and it really doesn’t hinge upon anything as obscure as divine intervention(or a World War II reference). What the Spartan offense needs, beyond catching the damn ball without which nothing else will work, is to develop a ‘bread and butter’ play or set of plays to be precise. They need a few plays which can be used in multiple situations and are run with such precision that they are next to impossible to shut down when executed. I have brought in an expert to help illustrate..
Lombardi is, without question, overqualified as an unpaid consultant but he had some free time. Further, Roushar already has enough conservative plays in the book and we don’t need him running the power sweep but the message is an important one. The Spartans have no identity when it comes to throwing the ball. Are they a spread team? No, not ideally as that takes away some of their strength in powering the ball ahead with Le’Veon Bell. Currently the closest thing they have to an identity is one of dinking and dunking, generally short of the sticks on third down. However, that shouldn’t be too difficult to rectify. It may be just as well for them to simplify their packages a bit; keep one personnel group out there the vast majority of time on first and second down. Whether they go with the two TE package or the I formation is irrelevant. The Spartans need to be proficient in SOMETHING when it comes to passing the ball. They will have to spread it out on third and long regardless, but if they can choose a true ‘base’ formation and stick with it I believe it would serve them well. They may actually get very good at executing all that is available from the formation and be able to maximize aspects like play action. Michigan State has a power back and to use him on draws out of the gun is a waste. Sticking with one power formation will afford them the opportunity to simplify the playbook and become more proficient without sacrificing productivity.
The football world is a backward article from what it was in Lombardi’s day. At that time it was ‘run to setup the pass’ and now the reverse is definitely true. Not a single team is going to respect the Spartans’ ability to throw the ball until they prove they can beat someone doing so. The ground game is there at whatever time they choose to employ it once opposing defense are forced to play evenly. You can throw deep patterns out of the two TE and the I formation and ingredients such as motion and misdirection are still available to you as well. The Spartans have Bell, and they are fortunate to have that weapon at the ready. It is past time to invoke the KISS principle(Keep It Simple, Stupid)and just find SOMETHING they can do well with regularity in the passing game. The Big Ten season looms and there is no time left to screw around.