Nobody said the game would be easy, and it certainly wasn't, but Michigan State withstood a tough, resilient Air Force team 35-21.
Overall, it was a good game for the Spartan defense. The Air Force triple option was a tricky as advertised, and the preponderance of cut blocking (some flagged as chop blocks) must have gotten to the Spartans. as MSU game up a good chunk of yards on the ground. For the most part, all those yards didn't translate into points--at least not enough points to lead to victory.
The one disappointment was that at least twice, Air Force receivers were able to slip behind MSU's defensive backs for huge pass completions, one of which went for a touchdown. However, it must be mentioned that MSU was missing the player whom I consider to be their best defensive back, Vayante Copeland.
I was surprised that MSU struggled so much to effectively run the ball (42 carries for only 77 yards). Brian Griese, who is one of the better color commentators working in broadcasting, pointed out that Air Force was showing the MSU offensive line different looks that were causing disruptions in the running game. It looked like Air Force had committed to stop the run, and they kept that game plan all game long, though I still expected the Spartans to wear down Air Force's defensive line and linebackers, but that never happened.
It also seemed to me that MSU's running plays were quite vanilla. Maybe this was by design: not wanting to show their hand too much to Big Ten opponents. In any case, the preponderance of off tackle running plays were similar to what the Spartans did against Western Michigan. Credit to Air Force for stuffing MSU's run better than any opponent the Spartans have faced this season, though I am interested to hear if the Mark Dantonio addresses MSU's running woes in this game.
In my admittedly amateur opinion, it appeared that Air Force was determined not to allow the Spartans to run the ball, allowing plenty of opportunities in the passing game. Aaron Burbridge made the Falcons pay. In what was definitely a breakout game for Burbridge, he made acrobatic, athletic catches that reminded me of recent MSU Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Andre Rison. Burbridge finished with 8 catches for 156 yards and three touchdowns.
The good news is MSU won the game and, as far as I can tell, did not suffer any injuries. Perhaps of greatest concern from a personnel standpoint is that Riley Bullough was disqualified in the fourth quarter after a targeting personal foul. He may miss the first half of next week's game against Central Michigan.
One parting shot: I need to stop reading the various Michigan State Facebook pages even after a Spartan win. This fan base is entering the territory of "spoiled." Rarely have I seen a group of people complain so vociferously after a victory.