A year ago, Michigan State allowed just two scoring plays of more than 40 yards. on its way to being the No. 2 defense in the nation.
The Spartans already have allowed three scoring plays of 40-plus yards this season, with one coming in each of the past three games. Still, coach Mark Dantonio believes the 2014 defense for Michigan State can be as good as it was a season ago.
”Our defense is not broke,” he said. “I know that we gave up 14 whopping points last week, but our defense is not broke.”
But with expectations so high after a season in which the Spartans were a stingy defense that shut down many of its opponents on the way to a Rose Bowl championship, the expectations are high in East Lansing on that side of the ball.
The Spartans rank No. 11 in total defense, 6 in the nation in run defense, No. 33 in pass defense and No. 35 in scoring defense after finishing in the top three in all four categories last season.
”Last year's defense set the bar very high,” Dantonio said. “The expectations are very high. There's expectations from our coaching staff and from our players to be that dominant, but we have to play ourselves to that position.”
To get to that level, the Spartans are looking to iron out the kinks that remain in the defense. The questions early this season have centered on the secondary, as coverage busts and miscommunications have led to big plays in the past three games for the Spartans.
”When things happen, and there is a breakdown, it's about how we get it fixed,” he said. “Do we get it fixed with personnel, do we get it fixed with structure, do we get it fixed with coaching on the sideline?
”I think that it's very apparent that we have the ability to do those things, we have done it in the past.”
Senior safety Kurtis Drummond said he knows there are questions “on the outside” about Michigan State not playing at the same level, but expressed a similar thought to Dantonio: It comes from expectations.
”That’s just because we set the bar high around here,” he said. “We only have given up 14 points the last two weeks, but as a defense, we look at those 14 points and we want it to be zero just because we set the bar high and we just expect more out of ourselves.
”That’s how far this program has come and that’s where our defense is at now. Just basically strive for perfection.”