EAST LANSING - Senior captain Kirk Cousins believes that Youngstown State's ability to dictate time of possession was a big reason why the Spartan offense scored just 28 points in the season opener.
"I was grateful for the way my teammates hung in there," Cousins said. "(Youngstown State) did a nice job keeping the ball out of our hand. They were an explosive offense last year so that was somewhat expected."
Youngstown State finished the game with a little bit more than a two-minute advantage in time of possession. But the Penguins ability to control the clock in the first half disrupted the ability of the Spartan offense to find a rhythm.
Youngstown State had the ball on offense for 19:33 in the first half. The Penguins set the tone with a 12-play, six-minute drive that ended in a turnover on downs. The Spartans had an opportunity to regain control of the clock in the second quarter. Cousins had just led his team down the field on a nine-play 80-yard scoring drive and the Spartan defense had forced a three-and-out. That was before usually sure-handed return man Keshawn Martin muffed a punt return and gave the ball back Youngstown.
Martin's gaffe on punt return was momentum killer for the Spartans. But it was far from the only setback. Michigan State's first offensive possession was marred by a false start by senior left tackle Jared McGaha. Senior tight end Brian Linthicum and sophomore left tackle Dan France were flagged for a false starts and a holding penalty was called on Chris McDonald as the Spartans sputtered in their two-minute offense before halftime.
"Obviously there's some things we need to clean up," said Cousins. "Those things are all fixable - it's not an issue of do we have the right personnel or the right talent. Jumping offsides, dropping a punt, those kinds of things are all cleaned up; especially during week one, those things tend to happen. Week one to week two is typically your greatest improvement, so that's obviously what we're working for. Next week will be very important - to make sure we clean things up."
Fifth-year senior wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, who caught 9 passes for 130 yards to tie Matt Trannon atop the Michigan State record book in career receptions against Youngstown State, believes all of the setbacks his team suffered against Youngstown State can be fixed.
"We expect to be great," Cunningham said. "We had a 22-point win over Youngstown State but a lot of guys aren't happy with the way that we played. But like I said, it is all fixable and we are going to work it out this week."
Click below for the postgame reaction of Cousins, who was 18-of-22 throwing the football for 222 yards and a touchdown.