Nov. 3, 2012
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Just when it looked like Michigan State was getting closer to putting it all together, a 28-24 loss to No. 21 Nebraska has the Spartans still feeling like they're miles away.
The offense, which had been struggling to complement MSU's fifth-ranked defense in the nation, came alive with 238 rushing yards, 107 more than their 12th-place average in the Big Ten.
Running back Le'Veon Bell recorded his fifth 100-yard game of the season with 188 yards and two touchdowns on 36 rushes and the Spartans reached the 20-point plateau for only the second time in six conference games.
Being able to run the ball effectively wasn't the solution MSU hoped it would be against the Cornhuskers, but it could be the development that helps the 5-5 Spartans become bowl-eligible with two games remaining.
"I think I am right in saying this, for the first time in seven weeks, we had all five offensive linemen practice together and function together for three days - Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday," said offensive coordinator Dan Roushar. "I thought they played well."
Michigan State's offensive front has been ravaged by injuries, and France and McDonald are the only two blockers in the same spots they were in against Boise State in the opener. Allen has started nine of 10 games, but five of the first seven were at left guard and four of the last five were at center.
"The Wisconsin game was a big statement," McDonald said of the 16-13 victory a week earlier. "Coming in against Nebraska, we knew they were a good physical team and we told each other that the tougher team was going to win the game and it was going to be on us.
"We had to get a chip on our shoulders as the O-line, and we had to run the ball. I think we did that. I think we ran very well, but we just didn't finish strong. We had two opportunities to run out the clock, and we didn't do that."
The restoration of a semblance of continuity paid off with a healthy 5.5-yards-per-carry average while protecting quarterback Andrew Maxwell from getting sacked on 27 pass attempts.
"We had a great week of practice and we were in sync," McDonald said. "You want that as an O-line."
Bell wasn't surprised that the offense was able to move the ball against Nebraska, which was fifth in the Big Ten in total defense and ninth against the rush.
"I knew we were due to get it clicking," Bell said. "We clicked last week (against Wisconsin) in the fourth quarter and overtime and were moving the ball the way we were supposed to the whole season.
"Maxwell is more comfortable and the offensive line is meshing together better. They did a great job of opening up holes. We're going to get better, but there's still a lot of improvement needed."