Spartans DTs looking to shore up play

Michigan State hopes to get more from the interior defensive line moving forward after up and down play at Oregon.

With the injuries to defensive tackles Damon Knox and James Kittredge, Michigan State was rather thin upfront against the Oregon Ducks.

The Spartans went with a three-man rotation between juniors Joel Heath and Lawrence Thomas and true freshmen Malik McDowell. The group gave mixed results in the Spartans’ 46-27 loss.

”We stopped the run for the most part,” coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday. “They had 20 yards rushing at the half and 53 yards after three quarters. We eliminated the run, we went five times three-and-out, between the second quarter and the third.”

Eventually, the explosive Oregon running attack broke through.

“They had a couple runs at the end of the game that sort of opened it up,” Dantonio said.

Oregon finished with 173 yards rushing and three touchdowns, while the Spartans’ pass rush experienced a similar story as the Spartans got plenty of pressure but whiffed on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota more often than not.

“I thought we got pressure on the quarterback,” Dantonio said. “We pressured the quarterback ten times where he had a scramble to make something happen.”

The injuries already have impacted Michigan State upfront and Joel Heath believes the depth will help in the long run, but is not an issue right now.

”At this time, it’s the beginning of the year, but once it starts picking up a little bit I think we’ll start needing more guys once guys start getting banged up,” Heath said. “But it’s good because Damon’s coming back, and you got Kitt coming back.

”It will start building up and flowing again.”

Heath said the team used this week to look at the mistakes they made and try to get back to same mentality each week and improve for the rest of the season.

“The same mentality, mindset that we’re going to get better, we’re going to improve,” Heath said. “We’re going to do everything we can to line up against our opponent and win.

”I think there should be a further focus, a regroup kind of, we lost last week we need to get back in touch, get back in tune with one another defensively and offensively.”

Dantonio is taking each week at a time but likes what he has seen so far out of the defensive tackles and the team overall.

“Joel Heath and L.T. have been solid, solid players for us. They are athletic, they are big,” he said. “But we're two games in, so it's really hard to evaluate where we are as a team. But I think we have the makings of a very good football team. But again, we're going to have to see this week and moving forward.“

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