In 2011, the Michigan State defense was among the nation's best at forcing turnovers, particularly interceptions.
The next season, 2012, brought fewer turnovers and a turnover margin of just two, leaving the Spartans looking to make the plays that change the game.
"We have been preparing for making more plays on the ball," said senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard. "We are trying to force more fumbles and raking at the ball every time you can. We have been doing more ball drills and everything so we can get more turnovers for the offense."
Head coach Mark Dantonio also stressed the need for more turnovers from the Spartans' defense in 2013.
"I think our defense did an outstanding job last year," he said, "but we didn't come up with as many takeaways and sometimes the ball bounces the other way. We didn't have as many sacks. Teams are getting the ball of quicker because the pressure is there, but we have to get sacks."
Dennard said the secondary knows what to expect from the front seven, which helps out when it comes to make plays. – especially late in games.
"We talk about trying to make plays at the end," Dennard said. "We also know that our front seven is going to put pressure on the quarterback, which then we don't have as much time to cover so that helps us out.
"The less time they have to throw it, the more chance we have to make plays."
Senior linebacker Max Bullough said the defense needs to hold strong and play smart late in games for things to look different this year.
"It's about not being tired and overcoming being tired because it's the end of the game," Bullough said. "It's being able to slow yourself down and realize they are doing the same plays in the last two minute drive that they were in the first quarter, so if you can stop and think and understand that formation means that play no matter if it is in a two minute situation or not, you're going to be successful. That's where we can be more successful."
Dantonio said the Spartans don't need to focus on scoring a certain number of points or holding the opponent to a point total, but playing the game the way it plays out.
"As far as how the game's is developing, it's the inches," Dantonio said. "If we took that attitude, the inches would continue to just be the inches.
"We can't divide our football team into defense and offense. We can't say this team won and this team didn't. You have to say Michigan State won or Michigan State didn't."