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Michigan State 14, Northwestern 6: halftime thoughts

EVANSTON, Ill. -- At halftime, Michigan State leads Northwestern 14-6. A few thoughts:

-- Michigan State senior safety Isaiah Lewis was ejected for targeting early in the first quarter after a helmet-to-helmet hit on Kain Colter, who was playing wide receiver. Colter left the game with an apparent shoulder injury. His return is questionable. According to Chicago Sun-Times beat writer Seth Gruen, no Northwestern player ruled “questionable” to return to a game after sustaining an injury has returned.

-- It’s not incredibly surprising that Michigan State’s offense struggled to move the ball. The Spartans, despite measurable improvements in recent weeks, are still a work in progress on that side of the ball. And the Wildcats’ defense has played well throughout its six-game losing streak. If you take away the freak, juggling, 87-yard Bennie Fowler touchdown catch – which, well, that stuff happens when you’re 4-6 and haven’t caught one lucky break in over a month – Michigan State put together only one long scoring drive, an 11-play, 80 yard sequence capped by a 20-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Langford. The score is a bit deceiving; Northwestern’s defense is holding up, for the most part.

Here's that Fowler touchdown catch, in case you're interested.

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-- Last week, Nebraska scored 28 points and registered over 6 yards per play against Michigan State’s defense. Finally, it seemed, Pat Narduzzi’s unit was mortal. That looked to be the case in the first half here at Ryan Field, where Northwestern was able to sustain drives, picked up 12 first downs and finished with 224 total yards. Michigan State held Northwestern to just 6 points, but the Wildcats don’t appear fazed by the nation’s No. 1 defense (3.75 yards per play). They should enter halftime feeling confident that they can put up points against the Spartans. Northwestern is moving the ball, but struggling to finish drives once it crosses midfield. Conservative play calling is a big part of the problem.

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