Well, that didn't go as planned. Here are my thoughts:
Mark Dell- Well, so much for having to worry about having a threat at wide receiver. Dell had 9 catches for 202 yards and a touchdown, making him the fourth Spartan wide receiver all time to have a 200+ yard receiving game. He would've been MSU's player of the game, if it wasn't for...
Otis Wiley - There were two losses here tonight - the one suffered by MSU and the one suffered by Nate Longshore. His starting career had the final nail put in its coffin by Wiley, who picked Longshore off twice, and returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown. Wiley seems to have returned to the form that made him second-team All-Big Ten in 2006.
Greg Jones - Still leading the team in tackles, and also led the team in tackles for losses last night. In other words, still a manimal.
Special Teams - Ugh. This unit looked positively John L. Smithian. On the first couple punts, Shackleford snapped the ball to Bates too low, causing those punts to be poor, or in some cases, not punts at all, as Cal returned one of those for a touchdown. Swenson missed a 40 yard field goal wide wide left, and a timeout had to be called in the fourth quarter becuase 10 men were out on the field for the field goal attempt initially. Overall, special teams looked discombobulated and frantic - extremely uncharacteristic of a Dantonio coached team.
The OL - Ringer should never be held to three yards a carry. Granted, I think the coaching staff could've helped out more by running outside a bit more (the most successful run of the night was the 10 yard touchdown run to the left), but the line opened few holes during the night, and all too often was allowing Hoyer to be pressured.
Brian Hoyer - I still don't know what to make of him, as again, he did just enough to make the game close, but not win it. He seems to have focused in on one target again, replacing Devin Thomas with Mark Dell. The hangover from the Champps Sports Bowl seems to have continued, as he was 20-48 with an interception. That interception was of the killer variety, as it was thrown from Cal's 15 and took at least three points off the board. The flip side of that though is that those 20 completions went for 321 yards, so at least the big play potential is still there. The loss isn't completely his fault, the OL couldn't get the run game going all day. I've rambled a bit here, so I'll end on this: between the Hoyer that played at Penn State and the one that played today, will the real Brian Hoyer please stand up?
The team as a whole - All of last year, I didn't see a team as disjointed and confused as the one out there last night looked. Special teams was a mess. False start and offsides penalties were kept to a minimum, but there were more than a few face masks and pass intereferences. Let's hope that the Cal game is the exception that proves the rule.
Overall, this game still could've been won by MSU if the special teams executed properly. Take away the punt return for a touchdown and add in the field goal that Swenson missed, and Michigan State wins 34-31. All told though, Cal deserved to win this game - even though they had their share of mistakes too (the punt going through the punter Anger's fingers, the roughing the punter call that kept a touchdown drive alive for MSU), they were the most composed team on the field. The 3-4 played more like a 5-2, and the inside linebackers stuffed most anything that came their way.
All right, enough dwelling on the past. I'm ready for Eastern Michigan and the first home game of the season. It's six more days until the first home game, and I have gone from unofficially pumped, to officially pumped. Who's with me?