I've spent most of this week thinking about what this team needs in order to make it over the hump for the rest of the season. I can't really say that our team made any costly moves that killed our chances against Michigan State, aside perhaps for that fumble in the red zone during the first half. We ended up being bested by the better team, and although I wish we would have won, I can settle for the effort that was made on the field. But I do have some other concerns that I'd like to share. Hop inside and I'll impart them...
Thought #1: Adonis Smith needs more touches.
This guy was running against one of the better defensive lines in the Big Ten and was able to push the pile. There were several plays that made me believe that Smith is our man. There were at least two occasions where Adonis was hit and kept moving, including one big play that almost made it into the end zone. Additionally, Fitz actually called for a Smith run on 3rd and 2 in the second half. Smith converted, with plenty of room to spare. This equals a 10-rush, 44-yard game for the guy, one that we needed badly as the passing game was flustered in the second half.
My understanding is that Fitz is still working him into the system. Hopefully Smith will step up and get going even faster. We need him for at least 15 plays against Indiana, just to mix things up.
Thought #2: Drake Dunsmore has to reappear.
I know he injured his ankle. Unfortunately, this offense doesn't have anyone who runs the middle route the way he does, and it showed late in the game against MSU. The secondary started keying in and effectively double-covered Ebert and Sidney Stewart, and no one else really stepped up. I hope he'll be in good enough shape to get significant, useful playing time on Saturday. Persa really needs another target out there on the field.
Thought #3: Persa's gotta throw the ball out of bounds.
In many ways, this seems very counter-intuitive to how the NU offense has been run this year. Persa tucked in the ball and made several key third-down conversions in the second half against MSU. But I've also counted two occasions now where Persa should have thrown the ball away instead of trying to make a completion after the play was completely busted. I counted three additional coverage sacks where Persa tried to run out of the pocket and didn't make it back to the line of scrimmage. It's nice to be the hero, Danny, but when you're really feeling the heat, get the ball out of there. One of these days it might really come back to bite you in the rear.
Thought #1, I think, will come to fruition for the remainder of the season. Expect Trumpy and Smith to be sharing the load as part of a two-back system, as Schmidt will be hobbling around for the next couple of weeks. As for the latter two, we'll have to wait and see how the rest of the season plays out.