MSU defense prepares for up-tempo IU

Spartans more aware of Hoosiers' attack this year than last season when they went into halftime trailing IU at Bloomington.

Through five games, Michigan State has ran its defense in its typical nature: Stuff the run and force teams to pass. So far, it has worked as the Spartans boast the nation's top-ranked defense.

After facing a smash mouth Iowa team last week, the Spartans face a different challenge with Indiana on Saturday.

"They get you on the outside, with the tempo, but in addition to that they like to get the ball on outside whether that's a bubble pass or a jet or outside zone type plays," senior linebacker Max Bullough said. "They get back on the ball really quick, so you're running lateral and then you're running back to the middle of the field."

The Hoosiers bring the No. 9 offense in the nation – and the fact that they passed for more yards against MSU last season than any other team (282).

They also bring the best average yards passing per game in the Big Ten with more than 340 (Illinois is second with just more than 280).

"We just try to play our game," senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard said. "We gotta tackle well in space. The ball will be thrown, so we just gotta make plays on the ball."

Defensive line coach Ron Burton said Indiana is very simple in its approach, but knows its key: Tempo.

"What puts the pressure on you is the time and the quickness of the throws, trying to get in and out of plays," he said. "I think that's the key is their tempo."

Indiana also has the lowest time of possession in the Big Ten and is 121 of 125 teams nationally – pointing to an offense that likes to get the tempo going and looks to score quickly.

Last season, the tempo and offensive game plan put MSU on its heels early and it trailed 27-14 at halftime.

"That was scary," Bullough said. "We didn't know what we were going to do. I think it was a bubble (screen) they were just non-stop hitting on us and getting 7, 8, 9, 10 yards every single time."

The Spartans went into halftime and made the necessary adjustments and shut out the Hoosiers in the second half and came back to win 31-27.

"We went into halftime to regroup and we did a good job coming out in the second half," Dennard said. "I think we will do that in the first half this time and go and dominate the entire game."

Junior linebacker Taiwan Jones said the difference last season was the Spartans weren't ready for the IU offensive attack and how they are approaching it heading into Saturday.

"I feel like we practiced it but we didn't take it as seriously as we do this year because we really know what to expect and how they are going to come out," he said. "I feel like this year we have a better advantage and a better mindset of what's coming our way on Saturday."

Jones said the challenge of Indiana is welcomed and that the Spartans will take on any challenge they face.

"That's just the defense we are," he said. :We are competitive. We don't care who steps in front of us. We always wanna be the best. We always wanna stand out and help our offense, give our offense great field position and come out and play our best."

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