Sunday, September 9, 2018

Green's five things to take away from Arizona State's 16-13 upset of No. 15 Michigan State

Photo Credit: Kevin Abele- Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

In what turned out to be a physical affair in the brutal heat under the lights at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., the Arizona State Sun Devils (2-0) came away with a 16-13 upset over the No. 15 Michigan State Spartans (1-1). Here are my five things to take away from Saturday night.

1) N’Keal Harry vs Justin Layne:

Billed as the matchup to watch throughout the week, this one delivered and then some as Layne had his way in the first half as he played a key part in holding Harry to 37 yards on three receptions.

In the fourth quarter, Harry began to create space as he lined up in different spots on the field and converted a 27-yard touchdown on Layne in the end zone.

“That touchdown was just me and Manny [Wilkins] on the same page,” Harry said. “He trusted me to come down with the ball and he put it in the spot where [Layne] had no chance of getting to it. At the end of the day, that is all of the extra work we have done after practice over the past couple of years and it showed.”

Layne finished with six tackles and a pass breakup and gave the 6-foot-4 receiver trouble for the majority of the game despite the late touchdown and will be a force to be reckoned with once Michigan State’s Big Ten schedule starts on Sept. 22 at Indiana.

2) Brian Lewerke’s 300-plus yard effort:

Brian Lewerke’s homecoming in Phoenix turned out to be a modest one as he finished 27-of-39 for 312 yards through the air. The only touchdown came on a 31-yard connection to Cody White.

The play came with a consequence as a gritty hit from an untouched Darien Butler seconds after the ball was released served as a reminder to the physicality of the game and gave the Spartans a 13-3 lead with 1:27 left in the third quarter.

Despite the grind of the heat wearing out the Spartans as a whole as the game progresses, Lewerke’s experience from his days at Pinnacle showed as he shared the wealth through the air as seven different players caught at least a pass.

3) Joe Bachie/Michigan State defense:

Joe Bachie continued his stellar play as the heart and soul of MSU’s defense with a team-high 10 tackles (nine solo) and delivered a hit on Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins Jr. near the out of bounds area in the late stages of the second half.

The play of Bachie was a key part in Michigan State’s run game making Arizona State into a one-dimensional as it held them to 44 yards. The Spartans’ rush defense will continue to be a key storyline as the season goes along with key divisional games, such as Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State.

4) The rise of Ruiz:

Kickers are often thought of as outcasts, but for Brandon Ruiz, Saturday night proved to be a coming out party as he drilled field goals of 49, 24 and the game-winning 26-yarder with no time left.

Ruiz’s field goals were the only source of offense which kept ASU in the game in the first three quarters and within a possession throughout the majority of the game.

5) Arizona State’s rush defense made an impact:

After holding UTSA to two yards on Sept. 1, Arizona State’s rush defense stepped up once more and held Michigan State to 63 yards on the ground.

Despite the effort in the first two games, Sun Devils coach Herman Edwards knows improvements can be made for a group primarily made up of underclassmen.

“We are starting to develop a temperament, which is good,” Edwards said. “This is one of those games defensively where you have to tackle big running backs. At times, we missed a few, but at the end of the day if they can’t score, they can’t win.”

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