Cornhuskers Headed to East Lansing with Great Respect for Michigan State Football
There is no doubt that the Michigan State Spartans season has not gone as planned. It doesn’t change the fact that the Spartans are still well respected among their peers in the Big Ten. The Nebraska Cornhuskers aren’t taking the Spartans lightly at all. If you listen to the Huskers Coach Bo Pelini and players, they aren’t coming to East Lansing to play a team that has been disappointing, they are coming to play a power house.
Pelini is impressed not with the complexity of the highly touted Spartan defense, but with the simplicity of execution. He said, “It’s not anything fancy. They line up and they do what they do. They play aggressive, they play hard, and they are physical up front. They challenge receivers on the outside in the secondary. They are well-coached. It’s a good group.”
Make no mistake the Spartans may make their defense simple, but it doesn’t mean it lacks the power punch. Pelini knows that the Spartans Pat Narduzzi will bring the heat. He said, “Yeah they are going to blitz some. They don’t go overly crazy. They are going to do enough to try and keep you off-balanced. We are still in the process of studying them and developing our game plan. I think our guys are looking forward to the challenge.”
The Spartans defense likes to hit. Physicality and intimidation are part of their game plan. Pelini likes that style of play. He said of the Spartans being the most physical defensive team in the Big Ten that, “I think they do a good job physically. They are a tough group, I think they are physical. I think they are well-coached. I have a lot of respect for the way they play defense over there.”
As much as Pelini (himself a defensive coach) respects the MSU defense, he has his eyes on LeVeon Bell. A smart move, so how does he stop the Spartans bruiser? Pelini said, “You have to get on him quickly. You have to be good up front and physical. He’s a big physical back and you don’t want to get him rolling. He’s a good player. He’s one of the better backs in the league obviously and he’s a good football player. He can run the ball, but he can also hurt you in the passing game. He’s shown the ability to catch balls.”
Senior safety P.J. Smith shares the same respect as his coach when it comes to MSU RB LeVeon Bell. He said, “He is a beast. He runs the ball hard. So we’ve got to get gang tackles on him. You just can’t go out there and have arm tackles on him. We’ve got to put our shoulder into him and wrap up. It’s going to be a challenge for us, but it all starts off in practice. Coach (Terry Joseph) will have some tackling drills for us today, tomorrow and Wednesday.”
Standout freshman LB for the Huskers is David Santos. He echoed the respect the Huskers have for Bell. He said of the Spartans bruiser that, “He is a real physical guy it looks like and very athletic. He likes to run downhill, and I appreciate his style of play. I think it will be a very physical game for us.”
Rex Burkhead will be a game time decision, although the people we have had on Spartan Nation Radio from the Nebraska media think he will play. His replacement has been sophomore I back Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah thinks the key to success against that highly respected MSU D is early down success. He said, “Early downs are key. We always want to have success on early downs. We don’t want any negative plays. Michigan State has a really well-coached defense and very talented defense. They are going play hard, so early success on early downs will be key.”
Jr. OL stud for the Huskers is Jeremiah Sirles. He reflected on last year’s game with the Spartans. While Spartan fans remember the Huskers manhandling of the Spartans he looks back with great respect. He said, “I just remember they came out very physical. They’re a very, very physical team and it was a grind. They came out with a very good plan against us, and I thought we had a pretty good plan against them getting the ball all over the place. I think the coaches are going to come up with a good plan, and we’re just going to have to execute. The game’s going to come down to execution as far as who executes better than the other team.”
Pelini is not one to look back, but he was asked about last year’s drubbing of the Spartans. He didn’t want to talk about last year, but did say, “I don’t know. I thought we played pretty well against them. We left some things out on the field in every area, and I’m sure they would say the same thing. We’ll have to see how it goes.”
Sirles does think the Spartans D is among the elite. He said, “I think every team likes to blitz. Michigan State has a solid defense. I think they were ranked number one coming in. They’re very solid as a group.”
Smith thinks that his defense has to give his offense some help against the Spartans D. That is why the Huskers defensive standout said that they have to give their offense great field position to make moving the ball easier.
Smith said if that task that, “It’s huge. We have to have turnovers and stops to put our team in a good position. It’s going to come down to special teams, especially in this game where both defenses are good. It’s going to come down to special teams and field position. If we can get turnovers or make their offense drive on us 80 yards, and if we can put our offense in good field position it’s going to help us out a lot more to get those points.”
The #21 Huskers still have high hopes for the season. They also have a tough task against the Spartans. The physicality of the Spartans and the Huskers is setting this Big Ten tilt up to be one of the most physical of the season.
The Spartans are coming off of a confidence boosting win over Wisconsin and are sure not play the congenial host when Nebraska shows up.