That team will come to town Saturday as Nebraska brings its 48.3 points per game average this season to East Lansing. More importantly for the Huskers, they bring the confidence of having found success against Michigan State recently.
“They had a pretty good time running the ball, I guess, but it’s a new year,” senior safety Kurtis Drummond said. “They do what they do and we do what we do. It should be a good game Saturday and we will be excited to play.”
In their first three seasons in the Big Ten from 2011-13, the Huskers are averaging 228.3 yards per game rushing against Michigan State. Michigan State has allowed an average of 95.2 yards per game to opponents in that time, a figure that drops to 84.6 in opponents apart from Nebraska.
That success has made Nebraska one of just two teams to average more than six yards per play in the past two-plus seasons against Michigan State. The Huskers have done it twice, while Oregon did so earlier this year.
Drummond said the success comes from Nebraska understanding how to attack a defense, regardless of who the opponent is.
”They have a good understanding of their offense and really like to attack guys,” Drummond said. “They have a great running back and a good line that blocks for them, guys on the outside that makes plays.
”They are able to attack you in different ways and their guys understand their offense.”
Defensive end Marcus Rush said what makes the Huskers a tough matchup is a variety of weapons, adding the Spartans match up well.
“They keep you on your toes,” Rush said. “You can’t be out of position really because if you take the wrong key, it could turn into an explosive play. You have to stay and read your keys well and be in position. …
”I think that’s one thing is we match up well. While they have an explosive offense, we have an explosive defense.”
For the Huskers in 2014, the explosive offense starts with running back Ameer Abdullah, who is averaging 166 yards rushing per game with three games with more than 200 yards in his first five.
The Huskers’ senior back has 233 yards in his two games against the Spartans on 44 carries, good for a 5.3 yards per carry average.
“You can just tell he works hard,” Drummond said. “It shows up on film. The way he runs the ball hard, downhill, makes guys missed, good field vision, able to prolong runs, making home run runs.
”He is a guy who can make plays out of the backfield and we will have to stop him this weekend.”
That will be easier said than done – with Abdullah and the entire Nebraska offense – but defensive end Shilique Calhoun said the Spartans know some of the big plays in recent years against Nebraska resulted from defensive mistakes.
The goal Saturday will be to clean those up and flip the script on the Huskers after a few years of success.
”Taking nothing away from their offense, we didn’t do our job as we have done in the past,” he said. “I think if we straighten that up, we will be just fine.”