Indiana Head Coach Kevin Wilson Talks Spartans Ahead of This Saturday’s Homecoming Tilt
Bob Stoops the head coach of Oklahoma and Mark Dantonio are close friends. Kevin Wilson the Indiana head coach used to serve as Stoop’s OC so there is a natural connection between the two teams. This week it doesn’t really matter.
MSU is playing for a lot. They have an emerging offense that has standing as its bodyguard the nation’s elite defense. Wilson took time to talk Spartans.
He said, “We’ve got a great opponent this week going on the road, our first road test, two teams playing very, very well, close to being a top 25 team, and would be that came up a little short, 17 14 at Notre Dame, at long loss. Played very, very well last week, very dominating performance against what looks to me to be a very strong Iowa team.”
He went on to talk about last week’s win over the Hawkeyes. “Iowa is a ball control, physical style of attack, and they’ve played well. I think Iowa was sixth in the nation in time of possession and really playing a run oriented great defensive game.”
Being an offensive coaching, Wilson referenced the Spartans improved play on that side of the ball. “Michigan State had well over 400 yards. Like us, came off their open date, cleaned their offense up, settled on a quarterback. They played as good of defense as there is in this country, starting with Coach Dantonio, Catch Narduzzi. So great challenge for offense.”
He paid close attention to the MSU special teams. “If you know much about Coach Dantonio, his special teams are always good. They keep you on your toes. They ran the fake last week, always have and always will. So they’re a complete team. They’re a team that played in the championship two years ago. Won 10, 11 games couple years in a row. Last year for them, an okay year. Their back up year is standard, and this will be a huge test on the road. So we’re looking forward to this week’s challenge.”
Wilson’s Hoosiers nearly beat a flat footed Spartans team last year in Bloomington. If not for the offense seizing the game the Spartans would have left with the loss. Does Wilson key on that looking forward? “As much as anything to me, we came out with some energy. I don’t know if an early kick did, they brought it in the second half, made their adjustments and we didn’t. To me that’s why they’re a winning football program. They did the things you needed to to come back and win a game. We have had a lot of opportunities; we were hoping to and trying to. Now we need to be at a point to.”
This time it isn’t in Bloomington and Wilson knows that being in East Lansing this is an entire different animal. Wilson actually likes that. “Now you get on the road, and it’s not that big a deal. We’ll play four great road games, first of many. I actually like being on the road. Sometimes there are less distractions. You’ve got them all together. It is what it is. We kind of communicate in no huddle. So I don’t know if it’s a communication deal. We do need to communicate better defensively. Fortunately when you’re on the road most people are quiet when their offense is out there. So that shouldn’t be a huge deal for our defense. When you play on the road, you have communication issues. Outside of that, it’s the same field that’s keeping your eyes focused on the target and what you’ve got to do.”
This Spartan squad may have many of the same players, but Wilson knows that each season, each team has their own identity and he pledges to have his Hoosiers read. “So, again, all week, I think last year, again, it’s a different team. They graduated a lot of players. We’re different than we were last year as well with a lot of new guys in. So I can say it’s where we were from last week, it’s building this week. If you look at them, they had a great week a week ago. They came off their open date at 3 1, knowing that they were doing a lot of things well, a lot of things work, watched their performance, and knowing about Coach Dantonio.”
He talked about knowing some of the MSU staff. “I’m personally reasonably close with a couple of those coaches. I worked with them or coached them. So I know a couple of those guys. Know how they coached. You can tell they did a great job. They’re pointing in the right direction. They’ve got big goals. We do too. Our main goal is to show that we can have back to back good days, and back to back good weeks.”
But for Wilson, this game isn’t as much about MSU as it is about his Crimson and Cream. “We’re going to go through and worry more about us and attacking this week. Then schematically attacking Michigan State more than it’s on the road and all that. It’s going to be a strong challenge.”
Coach Wilson is considered by many to be an offensive genius. With his Hoosiers strength being offense and the Spartans defense he knows how this story unfolds. Why can’t teams run on the Spartans? “Combination. I mean, they got what you want. Personnel is awfully good and schemes are awfully good. So they’ve done what they’ve done on time. Coach Dantonio, head coach, put a defensive guy, always has their defensive coordinator, Pat Narduzzi. He is the best or one of them in this league and in the country. So he’s, again, a friend. I worked with the guy. They structurally know where to lineup. They know where they’re supposed to be. They know where their eyes are. They know their schemes. They’re really strong in their blitz package of when they blitz and how they blitz.”
He continued to praise the Spartans D, “They do a great job. A lot of it comes from Pat’s ties that he’s taken to an extremely other level. But to Coach Heffner who I had a chance to go against a long, long time. He knew how to cheat and make somebody play with their left hand. Load that box up, where your eyes need to be, and your gaps need to be, and play structurally really, really good with really great defense. They’re good up front.
Max Bullock, their linebackers, their edge players are awesome. They should have graduated three years ago. You see the same cats every week. Their corners like it down. They’re competitive. One of the great safeties from up the road, a Ben Davis kid. They put 15, 16 kids out there that can play and hunt. Their defense is going to be a great challenge.”
Narduzzi is NOT going to let the Hoosiers run the ball. They have the best eight deep set (first and second string CBs and S) in the nation and they are going to make Indiana go to the air (their strength) and prove they can beat them one on one. Wilson is fine with that.
“That’s a part of it because that’s what they do. But you’ve got to have 11 guys still if your protection is breaking down. Quarterback’s not putting the ball on target. You’re not calling the right stuff. It’s not just one guy making that play. It takes 11 guys to make the extra point. It’s not just the kicker. You’ve still got to block your gaps and do your job. When you’re doing something right, takes 11 guys to play good run defense. It takes 11 guys to pass. It takes 11 guys to throw it. If you’re throwing it well, your line is pass blocking. It takes 11 guys.
Yeah, there are some one on one match ups, and they’ll be competitive match ups. The way Michigan State plays is they compete. They get up in your grill. They get up in your face. They do what they do, and they do it every week. They do it no matter who it is, and they do it good and make you compete. There are going to be competitive plays.”
He went into more detail, “Their type of defense is they make a lot of competitive plays so that you’re going to have to. Same deal defensively. We’ve got to find a way to get stops and not let their offense get in rhythm like they did last week against Iowa, because I think that was the big thing last week is their offense got in rhythm, and even gave them more gaps last week.”
This game should be a lot of fun for the Spartans homecoming crowd. Two teams whose strengths will be on the field at the same time. Indiana will score some points, this game comes down to the MSU offense having their best game of the year.