November 1, 2011

Roushar fields questions on offensive cold spell

EAST LANSING - Discussion and questions about Michigan State's play calling and play design continued on Tuesday evening during weekly post-practice interviews at the Skandalaris Center, with offensive coordinator Dan Roshar fielding questions for the first time since the Spartans' 24-3 loss at Nebraska.

Should Michigan State have run the ball more, used the tight end more, probed the middle of the field more? Roushar took on those questions and more.

  • On Nebraska players saying that they could anticipate what routes were coming based on formation, down and distance:

    "Well, I thought they defended us very well," Roushar said. "We did some things differently that we had not shown this year. Maybe they did a great job of going back and studying us in years past. But give them a lot of credit for the way they played and how they handled us. They defended us very well.

    "They matched up on us very well. They were very physical at the line of scrimmage. They impeded our route execution in many cases. Even the first interception, the guy makes a heck of a play right through the back side of /B> We looked to the front side of the route, came back, maybe a hair late and the kid made a great play through B.J.

    "They did some things differently in their blitzes and kept our backs in, so we were trying to get some free releases and get better at that."

  • Should the Spartans have stuck with the run more?

    "As you look back at it, we rushed the ball pretty well for a 4.2 average," Roushar said. "I think we had 24 carries for 101 yards. So you could see us doing some good things that way. The last three weeks prior to that game we had made some explosive plays on the outside; we thought we could still do that. In hindsight maybe you continue to run the ball a little bit more, but you have to call the game as you see it, and the feel there.

    "Keshawn and B.J. have been big play makers in the last three games and we felt like they were vital in our success."

    On not getting the tight ends more involved in the offense, specifically Dion Sims:

    "Dion had a big opportunity coming out when we ran a play-action pass coming off, and if he makes that catch it's probably going to go past midfield and then we'll see what happens. Unfortunately he drops it and then as the flow of the game goes, in and out of stuff, they did an awfully good job of getting on him quickly and denying him into some route execution.

    "Things that we have looked at and said, how can we make it better? Maybe a little bit more movement to help our guys get releases, but they did a great job of being physical at the point of attack with us, trying to get to the second level.

    When asked if MSU could have attacked the middle of the field more, Roushar cited a time when MSU tried to go over the middle in the red zone, a third-down play in which a pass intended for Cunningham at his hands was broken up by two defenders. That was the third play of MSU's second drive, prior to the missed field goal.

    "They did a great job of running underneath it and then a safety came over the top," Roushar said. "Then we went back in there with Keshawn a couple of times and he got denied entry. So yeah, the middle of the field could have been worked more, there is no question about that as you look back. Some of the route design was that way and it just didn't get executed, and some of it you kind of look back and maybe a protection breaks down when you think it might go in there. You just kind of keep working at it, getting better."

  • On being the offensive coordinator this year and being subject to more criticism due to your responsibilities and title:

    "It's a team effort. We set the game plan together and then we go out and try to execute. Our guys have to certainly do their job better and we as coaches have to put them in better position. I think that's always our evaluation. Even when things go well, we are trying to make things better."

  • The Spartans rank last in the Big Ten in rushing offense and yards per carry. How important will it be for Michigan State to run the ball during the final four games of the regular season in November?

    "Oh it will be really important," Roushar said. "We went that last stretch with Ohio State and felt like we had to mix it up. You look back and I just turned the game on Saturday and saw that Wisconsin had 10 yards rushing on them at halftime and we thought they were awfully good and we felt like we mixed it that day. We came back and we ran the ball very well against Michigan, and we mixed the run and the pass very effectively against Wisconsin, felt like we matched up really well on the outside. At Nebraska, we wanted to go in and be balanced, and as I look at it right now our mindset has got to be to continue to try to run the ball effectively and our offensive line is starting to improve and stay together. It's a positive."

  • Sophomore Le'Veon Bell made the first start of his career on Saturday at Nebraska. Bell gained 58 yards on 12 carries (4.8 per attempt).

    Coaches have not indicated who will start at tailback this weekend against Minnesota.

    Roushar on the decision to go with Bell over former first-stringer Edwin Baker at Nebraska:

    "We felt like it was a good opportunity for Le'Veon to get his chance. Coach Dantonio and our staff, we talked about it throughout the week, and Le'Veon ran awfully hard against Wisconsin, and Edwin had a fumble, and I think he got a little tentative and we just felt like he deserved the opportunity. And we felt like Le'Veon ran hard and did a very nice job, and so did Edwin. He ran hard too."

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