Posted by Adam Jacobi
It's hard to imagine Michigan State's game against Notre Dame last Saturday portending any worse for the future than it did. Not only did the Spartans lose, 31-13, but the vaunted rushing game gained just 29 yards on 23 carries in the process, eventually being abandoned in favor of Kirk Cousins' passing attack. That passing attack worked from a yardage standpoint, but 13 points is still 13 points, and that offensive anemia is going to continue for as long as MSU struggles to run the ball.
Also a very bad omen: Michigan State's offensive line took a major hit when redshirt freshman OT Skyler Burkland went down in the second quarter of the loss, getting rolled up on from behind at the end of a play. And as Mark Dantonio confirmed Monday, that injury is going to keep Burkland out for the rest of the year:
Michigan State starting right tackle Skyler Burkland is out for the rest of the season after breaking a bone in his left leg in Saturday's 31-13 loss at Notre Dame, Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio reportedly said on a Detroit radio show today.
Dantonio told WJR 760-AM show host Paul W. Smith that Burkland broke a bone near his ankle.
Junior college transfer Fou Fonoti, who came in for Burkland after the injury, is expected to start this Saturday agains Central Michigan at Spartan Stadium.
You know, it's interesting that these types of injuries don't happen more often, considering the fact that linemen are consistently engaged with each other near the line of scrimmage and most rushing plays between the tackles end within 3-4 yards of the LOS. Guys are hitting the deck all the time, whether it's a tackle or even just block at a stalemate. Combine that with the cleats anchoring the feet and ankles in the turf, and it seems like a recipe for lower leg disaster on just about every play if someone comes falling in from behind. And yet it's still pretty rare that someone gets rolled up on in the first place, to say nothing of actually getting seriously injured in the process.
At any rate, Fonoti was a pretty well-regarded recruit, so the dropoff probably isn't going to be dramatic. And yet, it'll still be there, and this is a running game and football team that's in no need of further dropoffs this year. The Spartans are still going to win 7-9 games this season, but if they can't run at all on Notre Dame, they're probably going to have some problems on the ground against Big Ten defenses this year, and that likely means the division title is even farther out of grasp.