The Michigan State Spartans a making a very strong case as the team to be in the Legends Division of the Big Ten. Head coach Mark Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi did not need much from the offensive squad in their shutout victory over the Purdue Boilermakers in Saturday’s Big Ten contest.
The victory moves the Spartans to 3-0 in Big Ten play and 6-1 overall this season.
The Spartans and the Boilermaker both struggled on offense, and it took some creativity from the Spartans’ coaches to generate any offensive points. OC Dave Warner and Jim Boleman were able to incorporate some trickery in the form of a wide receiver pass from Tony Lippett to tight end Andrew Gleichert that resulted in a touchdown, the only offensive score of the contest.
This creative play was merely an insurance score for the Spartans, whose defense had already scored a touchdown earlier in the game. The outstanding Spartans linebacker Denicos Allen was able to scoop a fumble by freshman quarterback Danny Etling and return it 45 yards for what ended up being the deciding score of the game.
The rest of the game featured a lot of Michigan State’s stifling offense that just does not give and instead takes away. Not only do the Spartans stop teams, they shut them out. In doing so, they are one of the nation’s leading defenses in taking the ball away. This ability is going to prove to be a vital aspect of the Spartans’ attack if they expect to find success later in the season.
The Spartans would love to make it to that Big Ten title game at the end of the season and with a victory over the Boilermakers, they took one more step towards that goal. A loss by Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern Wildcats to the Minnesota Golden Gophers (without head coach Jerry Kill) also helps the Spartans’ aspirations of a championship season.
Most likely, their biggest road bump to representing the Legends division in the title game will be the November 16th matchup against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
In a day and age of high-scoring spread offenses, the Spartans have continued to win with their defense over the past few seasons. Two simple keys have been their recipe for their success. One, the Spartans’ goal every week is to shut out the opponent — and they actually do it.
The Spartans may bend, but rarely break, and they play good, smart team defense. Secondly and equally importantly is the ability of the Spartans to take the ball away from the opposing offense via fumble recoveries or interceptions.
Not only are these drive stoppers in a game, they are emotional swings that change momentum in favor of the team that stole possession of the football. Also, turnovers can occasionally lead to a touchdown for the defense, and it can be argued that no one seems to do this as consistently as the Spartans do.
The Spartans must continue to get consistent play from quarterback Connor Cook, whose job is to move the chains on offense to give the defense a break. They also need grind-it-out yards by running back Jeremy Langford.
If the Spartans offense can provide these two things and their defense continues to perform at such high levels, they could give any team in the Big Ten a run for their money.