Spartans prepare to defend "in a phone booth"

Rose Bowl features two teams built on toughness, and MSU wants to prove itself again against a team that will look to run the ball. The Spartans talk about what it will take -- beyond just the physical.

Michigan State knows its offense is no great secret. The Spartans seek to run the ball and win with its toughness and physicality.

Well, the Spartans have spent the past couple weeks preparing for a Stanford team that likes to do the same exact thing – maybe even more so.

"You see power with a little bit of power and then they will run power," senior Tyler Hoover said. "Then on a short field, they'll run power."

While the change from a spread Ohio State team – and Nebraska team – that caused Michigan State some issues would seem welcome, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said when it comes back to game planning, suddenly the happiness is wiped away.

When it comes to game planning for the Stanford power game, though, Narduzzi said structure only does so much for a defense.

"It comes down to attitude more than it comes down to structure," he said. "They're putting you in a phone booth, and it comes down to toughness and attitude, and I feel like that's an advantage for us because I think we're built on toughness and attitude."

The Spartans' top-ranked run defense will have its work cut out for it in facing a massive offensive line that averages 6-foot-5, 305 pounds in its starting five.

Even more so, it is common for the Cardinal to utilize offensive linemen at the tight end and fullback positions. That just challenges the Spartans more, something they are ready for and welcome – even love.

"You're going to see a lot of O-linemen out there on the field," Hoover said. "We love it. We love the physical and the toughness. That's what our defense is all about."

"I look forward to it because you know they are not going to sugar coat anything or hide any plays, it's going to be right in front of you," defensive end Shilique Calhoun said. "It's what are you going to do to stop us? We're running this with power. What are you going to do to stop the power? At that aspect, we will love that."

As much of the battle will center on the lines, Hoover said there is no doubt it will be about technique to stop the Cardinal and playing team defense.

"All nine O-linemen get in a four-point stance and try to root you out of your location and try to get a couple yards," Hoover said. "They are going to do that and we're going to do the same thing. We are going to get under them.

"I'll get in a four-point stance all day if I need to."

Fortunately for the front seven, the MSU secondary plays downhill just as much as the Stanford offense wants to run downhill.

"We've got DBs that come down here, big guys," safety Isaiah Lewis said. "Nobody has no fear. Just going to come down there. We're going to play hard."

Similarly, cornerback Darqueze Dennard said he looks forward to the chance to lay a hit.

"I'm going to put my big boy shoulder pads you could say, try to play linebacker pretty much," he said. "I love just to have the opportunity to help out the front seven when they need me to do it, and that's what pretty much I need to do. Pretty much in the box, the best man whoever push the hardest fight the hardest and whoever be the toughest and have the most effort is going to win it."

So when it comes to playing with toughness and attitude, the Spartans are eager to prove their mettle against yet another opponent.

"They say one of their strengths is running the ball, one of our strengths is stopping it," safety Isaiah Lewis said. "So that's what we're going to do."


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