EAST LANSING - Off to a 3-0 start with winless Notre Dame next on their schedule, the future looks bright for Michigan State. But things could have been looking different had it not been for MSU's opportunistic defense led by emerging star Jonal Saint-Dic.
Saint-Dic was a revelation on Saturday, virtually unblockable, wreaking havoc in the Pitt backfield pressuring the quarterback, causing turnovers and making big plays.
A look inside the numbers shows that MSU's defense played a pivotal part in their win. Saint-Dic's two sacks, one hurry and two forced fumbles.
Pittsburgh matched MSU offensively almost step-for-step.
The Panthers rushed for 207 yards vs. MSU's 144. Pitt averaged 5.4 per carry while MSU ran for just 2.8 per carry. Pitt had 15 offensive first downs to MSU's 19. The only area MSU really outgained the Panthers was via the air where the Spartans put up 183-yards to just Pitt's 85.
While MSU wants to make a team one-dimensional, this was the opposite of what they normally try to accomplish. Defensive coordinators by nature, want to stop the run game and force the team to be passing only, not the other way around.
But the Spartans had trouble against the big physical Pittsburgh offensive line as GSN's beat writer Joe Torok believed and had spoken to head coach Mark Dantonio about earlier in the week.
Pitt was able control the clock for long stretches including an amazing 11-play 56-yard drive that consumed 10:03 off the clock and culminated in a Pitt field goal.
That's why Michigan State's big plays were so important, without the pick six by safety Travis Key (seven tackles, second for MSU), Otis Wiley's (five tackles) interception that set up a Caulcrick TD score, the two forced fumbles (one recovered by MSU that led to a Brett Swenson field goal) and a key sack by Saint-Dic, the outcome of this one would likely have been quite different.
MSU looks to be in good stead heading into South Bend against a team that is having trouble protecting a freshman quarterback and
Defense Leading Way For Undefeated MSU
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