Perhaps the biggest test was that set for middle linebacker Taiwan Jones. The senior moved to the middle spot after spend two years playing outside linebacker and was charged with commanding the Spartans defense against a vaunted Ducks offense.
The results were mixed for the team, as they were for Jones in the 46-27 loss.
”We didn’t finish the game,” Jones said.
Michigan State came out strong – as did the defense led by Jones instead of three-year starter Max Bullough. But the second half was a difference story as Oregon stormed away from the Spartans in the middle of the third quarter and did not let up.
It was a lesson for Jones, who finished with five tackles, including one for a two-yard loss.
“Basically, not getting tired,” Jones said. “When I got tired, I didn’t always read my keys and I was young at the position.”
Jones now has 12 starts to his name at the MIKE linebacker position and has progressively gained confidence. He had perhaps his biggest game of the season against Nebraska and talented running back Ameer Abdullah. Jones had 10 tackles with three tackles for loss in the Spartans’ 27-22 win.
But it is the lessons learned at Oregon that he wants to show he has learned heading into another stiff offensive test as Michigan State faces Baylor in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1.
”Now, I’ve got the position a lot more and I know what it takes in order for us,” Jones said. “That’s keeping the same energy level and intensity level the whole game whether I’m tired or not. If I’m tired, tap out and get somebody new in for a play or two then get back in.”