Their feature back to open the game was a big, bruising running back in Brandon Cottom – something Purdue had not shown much previously.
On Saturday, the Boilermakers again came out with a look Michigan State had hardly seen in preparations. This time, it was the bubble screen time and time again.
“We practiced it a little bit, but the frequency with which they did it was a little bit new,” linebacker Darien Harris said. “They executed it very well in the first half. Hats off to them.”
Behind the new look and in the second start for quarterback Austin Appleby, the Boilers tallied 234 yards in the first half, including 138 through the air – plenty of which came on the bubble screen.
Defensive end Shilique Calhoun said it something Michigan State just has to deal with week to week as teams bring new looks to change things up.
”Purdue did a great job today of changing it up and understand where our weak points were,” Calhoun said. “It was nice we were able to come back in the second half and understand what we need to correct and we did that.”
The Spartans did just that at halftime and allowed just 11 total yards in the third quarter and just 106 in the second half. Dantonio said the changes came in coverage, as the Spartans were outnumbered in space.
”We were a little bit loose in the first half,” he said. “Those things need to be covered and we need to execute better.
”In the second half, we indicated to everybody what they were running, got that squared away and got some things fixed.”
With the bubble screen taken away, it opened up opportunities for Michigan State’s defensive line.
Defensive tackle Joel Heath said after it being next to impossible to get pressure with the quick passing attack of the first half, the Spartans re-evaluated how to do things in the second half.
“I think it was just switching up stunts,” he said. “I think we needed to figure out what they were doing then try and decipher that and game planning from the second half, they came out with a completely different scheme and we decided to re-evaluate that.”
It worked for the Spartans’ front, which totaled five tackles for loss and two sacks.
“We just took it upon ourselves to make a play,” Calhoun said. “A lot of times on defense you just feel like somebody else is going to do it. We came out and were like, listen, we need to make a play. …
”I put upon myself each and every play to try and get off the ball and wreak havoc in the backfield.”