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Snap Counts and Analysis With Cody McKean: Michigan State

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It was a fun game to watch for a second time.

Penn State v Rutgers Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Offensive Snap Counts (total 77):

  • QB: Clifford - 58, Levis - 19
  • RB: Lee - 49, Holmes - 16
  • WR: Dotson - 68, Washington - 57, KLS - 46, Lutz - 12, George - 9, CSB - 9, Jones - 6,
  • TE: Strange - 68, Johnson - 32, Kuntz - 1, Baker - 3
  • OL: Menet - 77, Walker - 77, Fries - 77, Wallace - 72, Miranda - 62, Scruggs - 29

Offensive Personnel Takeaways:

  • Seniors: Michal Menet, Will Fries, Isaac Lutz, & Trevor Baker. Baker got his first snaps of the season on the final drive kneel downs.
  • No Devyn Ford or CJ Thorpe on the day.
  • Zack Kuntz’s only snap was after Theo Johnson lost his helmet.
  • The WR room has settled into their roles with far less rotation of KLS during the past two.
  • Juice Scruggs played both guard spots plus his role in the Levis package.

Defensive Snap Counts (62 total):

  • DE: Toney - 55, Simmons - 41, Isaac - 31, Tarburton - 8, Vilbert - 13
  • DT: Mustipher - 43, Shelton - 43, Hansard - 25, Beamon-15, Ellies - 14, Culpepper - 5
  • LB: Brooks - 62, Luketa - 54, Smith - 43, Dixon - 32, Jacobs - 17
  • CB: JPJ - 28, Ellis - 46, Wilson - 53, Hardy - 35
  • S: Brisker - 63, Wade - 71, Sutherland - 14, Brown - 3

Defensive Personnel Takeaways:

  • No Jayson Oweh meant Shane Simmons got the start at DE for senior day and what a day.
  • Hakeem Beamon returned in a pass rush only role and did well. Maybe his conditioning isn’t high enough for full drives after his time off.
  • The backup CBs got a lot of run. They started the final 5 drives once PSU took the lead. JPJ would sub in for the sub-packages to allow Daequan Hardy to move inside and Keaton Ellis looked fine so I think it was just to get the guys live reps. The starting safeties played alongside them so it wasn’t a full “play the subs” defensive backfield.
  • Has D’von Ellies become DT4? He played before Culpepper in each of the last couple games and out-snapped him too.

Accuracy Charting:

  • Sean Clifford: On Target - 16, Catchable - 4, Miss - 4, Uncatchable - 2, Throwaway/Batted/Spike - 4
  • Will Levis: On Target - 1, Miss - 1

Offensive Analysis:

  • Once again the QBs were rotated by situation and the reins were kept tight. Trust has been a big part of the 2020 season and the QBs are not trusted. There was more downfield passing than vs Rutgers but still not very much and only safe passes.
  • Will Levis was 2/2 but one was either an off target pass to Parker Washington tipped to KLS or an off target pass to KLS tipped by Washington. The second one hearkens back to my HS basketball coach who always said “if the pass has to be perfect, don’t throw it”. Levis threw a perfect pass but 6” to the left would likely have been an INT. This game was the first time Levis lined up with a RB since Iowa by the way.
  • Clifford threw a beauty of a back shoulder that was hotly contested and dropped by Dotson. Outside of that, everything was really simple for him. He had three batted balls though that weren’t just tipped, they were thrown right into the defender’s arm.
  • As runners, both QBs did their role. Levis was the battering ram beating MSU into submission 3yds at a time. Clifford got a few short ones and then a big one. On his TD run on short yardage, the defense keyed on Caziah Holmes in the flat with a LB and S running to cover that screen and Clifford took off right up the middle with no one in his path all the way to the end zone. It’s like the defense expected Levis in short yardage and when he didn’t come in their brains went “pass! pass!”, so Clifford running a ‘Levis’ play surprised them all.
  • Really not much to say about the RBs besides the fact the Keyvone Lee TD called back for an obvious holding was a really, really good run.
  • Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington may be the best duo at PSU since...2008? They complement each other and work off each other. Ciarrocca is really starting to use that too. In the first highlight below, watch the defense. Washington draws the eyes of both guys on his wheel route and Dotson is so wide open that Clifford pump fakes to him, pauses, then throws it to him for an easy 10.
  • Later in the game with 12:28 remaining in Q4 Ciarrocca goes back to that play immediately after a 9yd curl to Dotson. It’s a different formation and different side of the field but the same two man game. Dotson shows hard on the screen, Washington kinda jogs out to “block” then runs a wheel. MSU has a single high safety in the middle of the field. The defense bites hard on Dotson, who had just gotten a 1st down and been lethal all season. Washington is wide-frickin’-open. Clifford makes a safe throw and underthrows a bit rather than too far, Washington gathers it in and defense is in such catch up mode he can jog to the end zone after evading two guys whose momentum carried them past the play. This is what Ciarrocca was so good at with Minnesota. He’d max protect with eight guys, run his top two WRs in a two man game, and bust a defense wide open.
  • A little Ciarrocca criticism though: at the end of the first half they had 1st down with a bit over a minute remaining. He called back-to-back shallow drag routes that were completed for 2 & 4 yards. No clock stoppage and it cost 35 seconds to get 6 yards.
  • After Dotson’s punt return TD, PSU went full clock churn mode. Eleven runs and one RB pass in the flat on the next two drives for 0 points but lots of clock run.

Defensive Analysis:

  • First up, way to go Shane Simmons. In his senior game and first career start he had himself a day. You go Glen Coco.
  • The DL started off hot just like the Rutgers game, cooled off in Q2 when MSU went berserker mode, then regained their footing to finish out the game. The defense goes as the DL goes.
  • Pry ran more stunts and DL zones than I’ve seen this season. He dropped Adisa Isaac, Shaka Toney, Smith Vilbert and even D’von Ellies into a middle zone this game. I think it shows the team is starting to “get” the defense because we are about the time of the season where the practice time equals spring+summer+camp+OOC games.
  • On that note, Jaquan Brisker & Brandon Smith have really started doing more directing of the defense. Brisker especially is signalling to DBs and dropping down to tell LBs on quite a few plays. As for Smith, I mostly notice when he’s in the box and he’s pushing Brooks into a different gap. I chuckle.
  • Speaking of Brisker, great INT. Poor ball security. If, nay when, he returns next season I think his grasp of the defense will be high and he will make more interceptions like that one. Get him with Seider though for a few ball security drills. He also saved a few TDs in this game with tackles, though MSU ended up scoring anyways on two of them.
  • MSU targeted JPJ only twice, both for completions. One on a short out route, one on the TD to Morgan. That Morgan TD was the first time I’ve seen JPJ beaten high since Olave. When you realize Morgan is 6’7”, it makes sense. He partially made up for the TD allowed when he made an ankle tackle on the RB during Q3 when there was nothing but grass ahead of him.
  • Daequan Hardy and Marquis Wilson got a lot of run vs MSU. They also got beat badly for TDs and big plays. Hardy also dropped an INT that would haunt a normal person without a CBs irrationally high confidence. Hopefully they learn from the experience and are improved for ‘21 which I believe had to be the goal from playing them so much more than the starters this game.
  • The game was officially over partway through Q4 when the RG got an unsportsmanlike to end a drive, one play after getting beaten like a drum by Shane Simmons on a stunt. The next drive PSU faked a double A-gap blitz and got a false start, then made a goal-to-go stand. MSU was mentally done.

Special Teams Analysis:

  • Lamont Wade looked more natural at kick returner than I’ve seen him on defense his entire career.
  • MSU put two gunners on returner’s left for Dotson’s punt return. They bit too far in and he ran right up the seam they created by their absence. He got a block by JiAyir Brown and Isaac Lutz and that was all he needed. No wall, no entourage. Just two guys and a seam.
  • Great, great job by the punt team faking that 4th down to get the offsides. MSU had 3 guys jump and although one guy got it for contact, a blocker jumping out of his stance would have gotten the other two as well.

Some fun for the end of the regular season:

  • Keyvone Lee: Athlete.
  • Put Amin Vanover at TE, I dare you.
  • Do you think this team has come together? It took awhile but they’re playing for each other now.