October 11, 2011

Spartans must contain Robinson again

EAST LANSING - Mark Dantonio wanted his players to "deflate" during last week's bye. This week, in preparation for the Michigan game, he wants to make sure his Spartans don't blow up too early.

"The game does belong to players, but it's important that they execute," Dantonio said. "Margin of error, when you're playing a guy like Denard Robinson, the margin of error is very small."

Robinson, Michigan's quarterback, is the Big Ten's leading rusher, averaging 120 yards per game and 7.1 yards per carry. He also leads the Big Ten in interceptions, with nine.

The Spartans obviously will want to limit Robinson's rushing success, and accentuate his propensity to turn it over through the air.

"Attention to detail is critical in this game," Dantonio said. "You've got to be in the right place at the right time. You've got to have the right things called at times, but players are making plays out there."

The Spartans rank No. 1 in the nation in total defense, most recently hand-cuffing Ohio State freshman QB Braxton Miller during a 10-7 victory over the Buckeyes on Oct. 1.

MSU held Miller to 56 yards passing and -27 yards rushing. A week later, Miller had 91 yards rushing and 95 yards passing (5-of-8 through the air) in three quarters of work at Nebraska, before going down with an ankle injury.

The Spartans have consistently held opposing quarterbacks far below their per-game averages:

  • Notre Dame's Tommy Rees passed for 161 yards against Michigan State. Rees has averaged 268.4 yards in his five other games.

  • Central Michigan's Ryan Radcliff passed for 87 yards against the Spartans. He has averaged 262 yards passing in CMU's five other games.

  • Florida Atlantic's Graham Wilbert had 15 yards passing against Michigan State. He has averaged 153.0 passing in FAU's four other games.

  • Youngstown State's Kurt Hess passed for 126 against the Spartans. He has averaged 241 in Youngstown's four other games.

    "They are extremely talented, aggressive, well coached," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said of the Spartan defense. "I think they are athletic. I think they play with good team speed, and they are going to be a physical presence out on the field.

    "We'll find out where we're at on Saturday."

    Dantonio isn't ready to proclaim that the defensive renaissance at Michigan State is complete, but the direction is definitely positive.

    "Our guys know what they're doing," Dantonio said. "They've tackled well in space, and we'll find how well on Saturday. The chips and the stakes will get higher as we go.

    "The evaluation of the performance is going to get more complete as we go. But, thus far, we've passed the test. Now will we pass the test of time here throughout the season, throughout the 2011 season? But we're coming. We're a confident football team as well, so we'll lay it out there."

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