South Florida (0-1) at Michigan State (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 7, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Spartan Stadium (75,005) -- East Lansing, Michigan. Television: ESPN2 or ESPNU. Home Record: USF 0-1, MSU 1-0. Away Record: USF 0-0, MSU 0-0. Neutral Record: USF 0-0, MSU 0-0. Conference Record: USF 0-0, MSU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Coming off an embarrassing loss, the road gets no easier for the South Florida Bulls, who travel north to tangle with the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing on Saturday.
Willie Taggart could not be pleased after his team's first performance of the season. Taggart took over for Skip Holtz as head coach of the Bulls this season. After years of struggling to win games, the Bulls might have hit a new low though as they were routed 53-21 by FCS foe McNeese State in the opener. The 53 points the Bulls allowed were the most an FCS foe has scored against an FBS program and the most the Bulls have allowed at home in school history. Obviously after a 3-9 campaign some growing pains were expected under Taggart.
Thanks to its defense, Michigan State is not lamenting an opening weekend loss as it enters the second game of the 2013 season. The Spartans stymied in-state foe Western Michigan's offense to the tune of 204 yards en route to a 26-13 win. With the win the Spartans improved to 45-17 all-time against non- conference foes. Michigan State went 7-6 a year ago.
This matchup marks the first meeting between the programs.
Marcus Shaw scampered for an 80-yard touchdown less than three minutes into USF's season opener. From there the offense struggled.
In all the Bulls finished with 342 yards of offense while turning the ball over twice on interceptions. Though they would finish with 133 yards on the ground, taking away Shaw's 80-yard run, the Bulls averaged just 2.5 yards per carry. Shaw himself had 145 yards rushing on 12 carries but the rest of the team rushed for negative yardage thanks to a number of tackles for loss from McNeese State.
Both Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd saw time under center. Floyd started the game but just couldn't get into a rhythm with any of his receivers. Floyd completed just 9-of-20 passes for 72 yards and was picked off twice. Eveld came in later in the game and although he threw for 137 yards and two scores, still only completed 50 percent of his passes (10-of-20).
Shaw was the lead receiver on the day with 47 yards on a team-high five receptions. Talented pass-catcher Andre Davis did bring in a touchdown pass but had just 30 yards total in the game. The one bright spot for the passing game was a 59-yard touchdown pass from Eveld to Stephen Bravo-Brown.
Last season USF was better than only Temple in the Big East as a defensive squad. Obviously not much has changed, or at least change has yet to show itself. The Bulls surrendered 424 total yards to McNeese State on an average of 6.3 yards per play. The Bulls weren't disruptive in the contest with no sacks and one forced turnover, while allowing the Cowboys to march into the red zone six times. Those six chances turned into five scores.
Reshard Cliett anchored the defense with eight tackles, including a pair for loss. DeDe Lattimore had 7.5 tackles as well, while Johnny Ward collected an interception to go with a single stop. Lattimore and Cliett are two of seven returning starters on defense for the Bulls and need to keep their production high.
Even though its offense averaged just 3.8 yards per play and picked up less than 300 total yards, Michigan State was still able to dispatch Western Michigan. The Spartans can thank their defense for that but going forward need more production from the offense to contend.
On Friday night the Spartans had just 116 yards passing and converted on just 5-of-19 attempts on third down. The Spartans were a perfect 3-of-3 in red zone chances but two of those scores were field goals.
Starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell completed 11-of-21 pass attempts for 74 yards. Maxwell's uneven play opened the door for backup Connor Cook, who connected on just 6-of-16 pass attempts for 42 yards as a replacement. The two could likely be competing for snaps this week as well.
The Spartans did get a strong showing out of the backfield from running back Jeremy Langford. Langford rushed for 94 yards on 20 attempts and also scored the Spartans' only offensive touchdown in the contest. Nick Hulls filled in well as a short yardage back with 33 yards on seven carries, while Cook gave an additional 35 yards. His elusiveness could give him an edge on Maxwell going forward.
Michigan State led the Big Ten and ranked in the top 10 nationally in a number of defensive categories last season, including scoring (16.3 ppg) and total yards allowed (274.4 ypg). The 2013 campaign started off with the Spartans looking just as dominant. Michigan State allowed just 204 yards and limited the Broncos to 2.7 yards per play. The Spartans were relentless in the contest with four forced turnovers, five sacks and 11 pass breakups. It was the most pass breakups by the Spartans since 2008.
The defense even helped in the scoring. The first touchdown of the game occurred when Jairus Jones grabbed an interception and then lateralled the ball to Kurtis Drummond before being tackled. Drummond returned the ball 21 yards for a score. Shilique Calhoun also returned a fumble 16 yards for a touchdown later in the game.
Marcus Rush was the most effective pass rusher in the contest as he recorded a pair of sacks, while Jones recorded two interceptions to match his tackle total. Drummond was perhaps the most impressive defender in the game as he had four stops and a spectacular one-handed interception to go along with his touchdown return. Max Bullough led the team with nine total tackles, 2.5 for loss.
Quarterback concerns on both sides of the ball in this contest will likely mean this game won't be filled with gaudy passing numbers. A defensive struggle will certainly fall in favor of the Spartans, who have already proved how stingy and punishing they can be on that side of the ball. Expect the Taggart regime to take another early hit.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 37, South Florida 14
09/04 10:45:03 ET