Through three games of the 2018 season, the #18/21 Michigan State defense once again has the look of one of the best in the nation, particularly its rushing defense, which is tops in the country, allowing just 32.7 yards per game.
Head coach Mark Dantonio said that he is very pleased with several areas of his team so far this year, including the run defense and added that the numbers don’t quite tell the whole story of the team’s passing defense, which continues to improve each week.
“There are things, when you look at our football team, I'm impressed with our focus and energy and how we come to play because we come ready to play,” he said. I think we're No. 1 in the nation and No. 1 in the conference, certainly, against the run, so we've stopped the run effectively. We've tackled well. We're starting to pressure the quarterback more effectively. I think we played three very good quarterbacks that can throw the ball. So our numbers there might not indicate our success, but we've not had a lot of big plays against us. We've got to cut down on penalties.”
While the run defense has been stout in every statistical category, the pass defense ranks as one of the worst in the nation, according to the numbers, ranking No. 123 in yards allowed per game.
But middle linebacker Joe Bachie echoed what his head coach had to say noting that with how well the Spartans have done against the run, it’s forced opposing offenses to throw more frequently, leading to inflated yards through the air.
“Once you pass the ball that much, you’ve got to get some yards eventually, they’ve got talent on the outside,” he said. “In today’s game, it’s so hard to cover 1-on-1, there’s so much talent. But if we continue to get pressure - like you saw last game, it helped us out a little bit - so if we continue to do that, it’ll take away some of those yards.”
One thing that stands out to Dantonio regarding his team’s pass defense has been the fact that the Spartans have limited the number of big plays they’ve allowed and added that he feels his defensive unit has been one that is a quality, sure tackling group.
“I think we could have won all three games, we've won two of them,” he said. “So, you know, they are not getting a lot of big plays. That's a positive, but the RPO, they are dinking it, picking up four, five, whatever the case but we are attacking it effectively in yards. And we measure everything, everything. Tell you that, hey, 13 percent of the time last week our head was involved in contact, 54 percent our shoulder was involved in contact on tackling. We measure every aspect of tackling that there is: Effective tackles, dominant tackles, etc., poor tackles, missed tackles.”
Dantonio went on to add that another reason Michigan State’s pass defense has had its struggles at times in the first three weeks is also because of the fact the Spartans have faced three quality, efficient quarterbacks already this season.
“But you get into a two-minute situation, remember that we played, as I said, three pretty good quarterbacks. Utah State is putting up a lot of points. The Arizona State quarterback is, I think, No. 2 or 3 in the history of Arizona State football in terms of his production; he's a 6,000-yard passer. Last week, Peyton Ramsey connecting on 74 percent of his passes coming into our football game. I think it's noteworthy that he was pressured 30 times, rushed out of the pocket eight times, sacked six times and another, whatever that is, pressure, somebody in his face, somebody hitting him, or ball disruption of some sort.”
Remember to stay tuned to Spartan Nation for all of the latest news on the 2018 Michigan State football team!
Want the latest breaking MSU news delivered straight to your email for FREE? Sign up for the DAILY Spartan Nation newsletterWHEN YOU CLICK RIGHT HERE!Don’t miss any of the latest up to the second updates on Michigan State Sports when you follow on Twitter @HondoCarpenter