Spartan DEs focused on containing Mariota

Michigan State knows if it wants to be successful Saturday in Eugene, Calhoun and Rush will be key in containing Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and a stable of running backs in the run game.

Marcus Mariota spent his past two years at Oregon running through defenses on his way to more than 1,400 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns.

One key to Saturday night’s game in Eugene will be how Michigan State is able to contain Mariota inside the pocket despite his ability to move like few quarterbacks can.

Defensive ends Marcus Rush and Shilique Calhoun will be vital in negating Mariota’s ability to get outside the pocket and create havoc for Michigan State’s defense.

“They're two (of) our best defensive players, so contain obviously is a big aspect of any football game when you're trying to pen in a quarterback,” coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday.

Calhoun compared Mariota to a Big Ten quarterback, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and knows it will be a group effort if the Spartans want to be successful against the Ducks.

“I think it has to be dominance up front with not just me but the rest of the defensive line,” Calhoun said. “You can’t leave it up to one guy because he is very good at making plays off of broken plays.”

Rush knows the importance of keeping Mariota in the pocket as well as what Michigan State has to up front.

“Be aggressive on the tackles, get some push in the middle,” Rush said. “Just being able to control the guy in front of you so when you do see him break out, you can at least slow him up so someone else can make a play.”

Controlling Oregon’s scheme offers a challenge for every defense in the country. It requires a tremendous amount of reaction and discipline to defend gaps correctly.

“There's a lot of things that they do schematically that puts pressure on them and puts people in conflict,” Dantonio said. “You know, a run-pass conflicts or a gap conflict as to how to play a particular gap or not, those things become issues that can create big plays. You've got to play fast.”

One of those rush-pass conflicts is Oregon’s jet sweep. It requires discipline on all levels of defense, but most importantly on the defensive line.

“Our ends are critical,” defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. “One of their favorite plays is the outside zone and they like to jet sweep it out there with the back in the backfield. Our ends have gotta play well.”

Rush mentioned the importance of trust in a game like this, with both the coaches and players buying into the scheme and they feel ready for the challenge.

“Coach Narduzzi set up a really good game plan and we know that,” he said. “Just play our game. I mean, we’ve got everything we need right now.”

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