The Spartans finally found their Rushing Offense, but where, oh where has it been?

The Spartans pounded out nearly 200 Yards Rushing vs Northwestern yesterday, (197 Yards to be exact) at more than 4 Yards per attempt, and beat Northwestern 29-20.

In a return to old fashioned football, the Spartans ran the football 47 times (64% of offensive plays) controlled the football for nearly 33 minutes, and moved the chains at nearly 48% clip. By any measure, that’s dominant football.

The Spartans didn’t beat just any team, in fact they pounded the ground against one of the best Defenses in the land. Prior to yesterday, NW was yielding just 100 Yards Rushing and just 12.6 Points per game and that included their 21-20 victory at Iowa and a 17-7 victory at home vs Wisconsin, and both Iowa and Wisconsin rank in the  top tier of the Big Ten in Rushing Offense.

It’s also worth noting, the Spartans scored 29 Points which were the most points yielded by Northwestern this season.


Give credit to the Spartans Offensive Line

Offensive success starts up front…

Yet, in three losses to Rutgers, Iowa and Indiana the Spartans Rushing Offense posted a grand total of  179 Yards and that’s a dismal average of less than 60 Yards Rushing per game.

Think about that? In 3 losses, the Spartans averaged just 60 Yards Rushing per game, and you can’t win football games with just 60 Yards of Rushing Offense.

Of course, Blocking and Running the football are the most important components of the game, because it underscores an ability to control the Line of Scrimmage. In addition, a highly efficient Rushing Offense takes pressure off the Passing Offense which is exactly what needs to occur with an inexperienced Quarterback working behind an Offensive Line that is still fine tuning its Blocking choreography.

And yesterday, the Rushing Offense took the pressure off the Passing Offense.

Rocky Lombardi had an efficient if not spectacular day…but most importantly, he didn’t commit an abundance of costly mistakes. Lombardi of course has been highly scrutinized, and yesterday he only completed 11 of 27 Passing attempts (just 40%), but that was enough. He connected on two Passing Touchdowns but that was offset by just 1 Interception.

Lombardi wasn’t asked to make magic or perform heroics, he was simply asked to play within his skill set.

If we deduct an incredible 75 Yard Touchdown Pass to Jalen Nailor, the Passing Offense totaled just 92 Yards. If we break that down, that is just 9.2 yards per completion, or 3.5 Yards per attempt, and while those are humble stats, the production is in the likeness of a West Coast Offense by way of completing short, highly efficient passes that enable an Offense to move the chains.


Defense did their part:

The Spartan Defense had arguably their best game of the season.

The Spartans Defense yielded just 67 Yards Rushing at 1.7 Yards per attempt, and given that Northwestern was unable to move the chains with their Rushing Offense, their Quarterback was forced to throw 43 times under relentless pressure, and in so doing, he forced two costly Interceptions.


At the bottom line (find consistency):

The Spartans need to find consistency, and that starts with coaching.

I have argued in the past for the coaching staff to keep the playbook simple as they seek to install a new system, and it seems to me they followed that prescription against Northwestern. Now, they need to relentlessly pursue consistency.

Yesterday’s victory was an incredible boost for morale, but it’s just one game, and Ohio State is coming to town after being forced sit for a week due to Coronavirus protocol.

The Spartans can’t lose sight of the fact their Offense is a work in progress. Overall, the Spartans have a record of just 2 wins and 3 losses, and that only registers #4 Big Ten East, and #7 Big Ten overall.

It was a great victory vs Northwestern, but the Spartans need to relentlessly pursue consistency and thereby more victories will follow.

We’ll be watching!


Thank you for reading, and I always welcome your comments and opinions.