To be fair, the Spartans are no longer ranked – while the Huskies made the leap to #18 in the A.P. Poll – but who cares? We beat a team many considered to be good-to-great, and when was the last time you could say that?
The line started out more or less with the Huskies favored by 2.5. It moved by gametime to the Huskies being favored by 3.5. As I discussed last week, that’s fishy as hell. That led me to believe something was up. That Vegas had cracked the code and figured out we were better than the world realized (predictably, the bulk of the money was placed on Michigan State, which means – yet again – Vegas crushed the public).
It was pretty quickly made clear that they were right, as the Huskies marched right down the field on the Spartans, scoring a touchdown on the opening drive. We took the next drive all the way down to the 1 yard line before being stuffed on downs, but that just led to our defense getting a safety, followed by another touchdown drive (this time successfully getting it in from the 1). After another punt by the Spartans, the Huskies scored again to make it 22-0 (missing the extra point). It looked like the rout was on from there, though Michigan State finally orchestrated a TD drive to make it 22-8. If you were worried, fret not, because with less than 2 minutes to go, we put up another TD before halftime to head into the break up 29-8, an insurmountable lead.
We traded touchdowns immediately after halftime to make it 36-14, but then things started to get sloppy for the Huskies. They chipped into our lead and got it to 39-28 – with the ball – late in the game. Another cheap touchdown and they might’ve executed the back-door cover! But, thankfully, the Huskies ended things on downs and were able to run out the final three minutes.
Michael Penix once again looked like a stud, completing 24/40 for 397 yards and 4 TDs to 0 INTs. The running game took a backseat once again, but Cameron Davis did carry it 17 times for 69 yards and a TD.
Ja’Lynn Polk had the biggest receiving day (6 for 153 and 3 TDs), but Jalen McMillan had another very nice game (7 for 94).
Defensively, when the game mattered most, we were able to get stops when we needed to. I’m going to chock up the second half surge by the Spartans to us taking the foot off the gas while holding a considerable lead. They really only had one easy scoring drive, every other one required lots of plays and time off the clock. I can’t ask for much more than that.
That’s a statement victory for a team that hasn’t had one since the Chris Petersen era. I would argue we haven’t had a win that huge since 2016. Now, we’re on the map, and I think it’s only fair for expectations to take a jump.
More importantly, we’re a fun team to watch. God bless ’em, I just don’t know what to do with myself! Penix is the best quarterback we’ve had since … I dunno? Marques Tuiasosopo? I’m not joking. I know we won a lot of games with Jake Browning, but has he ever performed at this kind of clip? Through three games, he has 1,079 yards and 10 TDs to 1 INT. I know it’s early, and we haven’t had a clunker yet, but I’m just so impressed with how well he’s been playing. It’s some kind of magic that he’s so good in this very particular offensive system, under this particular head coach.
We’ll see what this means going forward, but we have back-to-back late night games (at home vs. Stanford and on the road – on a Friday night – against UCLA). Either one could be a loss (I’m obviously more worried about the Bruins, but this Stanford game could be a trap as everyone looks ahead), but then things start to open up. ASU just fired their coach, Arizona just barely beat North Dakota State, Cal and Oregon State are middling, Oregon doesn’t look as good as their ranking might suggest, Colorado might be one of the worst teams in college football, and the Cougs are the Cougs.
I dunno. I think it’s safe to get a little excited for this year. I think we have more than a fighting chance in all of these games. We needed the offense to make a huge leap forward, and so far they’ve done just that. Now, I think we can compete, especially with the likes of some of these other high-scoring teams in our conference.
What a pleasant surprise!