The TSX Files: Michigan State Monday

Defense has been the story of Michigan State's young season. It has been the one consistent aspect for a team that now stands at 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten after a 10-7 win at Ohio State and has two weeks to prepare for the visit Saturday from rival Michigan.

Defense shines for Spartans

Defense has been the story of Michigan State's young season. It has been the one consistent aspect for a team that now stands at 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten after a 10-7 win at Ohio State and has two weeks to prepare for the visit Saturday from rival Michigan.

That defense was at its best against the passing-challenged Buckeyes, attacking freshman QB Braxton Miller and collecting nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Both are highs in the Mark Dantonio era. With the Spartans' offense struggling to score points and the special teams making mistakes, this defense looks like the key to MSU's Big Ten title defense.

"It's about us," MSU senior FS Trenton Robinson said. "As long as we're executing and taking care of our business, as long as we do that, I don't know who's gonna be able to mess with it."

The Spartans allowed just 178 yards to the Buckeyes, staying first in the FBS in total defense (173.4 ypg) and just missing the first shutout for an opponent at Ohio Stadium since 1982. The Buckeyes scored a meaningless touchdown with 10 seconds left.

The Spartans have one shutout and nearly have three. A blocked punt by Central Michigan was the only reason the Chippewas scored in a 45-7 MSU win. Although MSU lost 31-13 at Notre Dame on Sept. 17, the Fighting Irish gained just 275 yards, scored on a kickoff return and again after a long interception return.

MSU has been playing well in the secondary all season, but now Jerel Worthy, Will Gholston and the defensive line are playing with more dominance, and the young linebacker corps came up huge with five sacks at Ohio State.


--MSU senior QB Kirk Cousins had an up-and-down day against Ohio State. He was sharp in the first half, delivering a 33-yard touchdown pass to B.J. Cunningham on which Cousins rolled away from pressure, directed Cunningham to the middle of the end zone and found him with a laser. He completed 20 of 32 passes for 250 yards, but he also had three turnovers -- a lost fumble and two interceptions.

However, the fumble was the case of the ball slipping out of his hands with rain coming down in the first half. The first pick looked like a good throw on an end zone fade to TE Dion Sims, but the Buckeyes were able to tip and intercept the pass. Cousins was clearly at fault on the second pick, throwing to a covered Cunningham, but Mark Dantonio was pleased with the play of his QB.

"I thought Cousins was on," Dantonio said. "Big-time. I mean, that ball was humming out there. If you're sitting out there on the field, he was throwing strikes."

--Cousins was one of the main reasons Dantonio has been banning media from interviewing players. But Dantonio also said that, in general, he wanted to take some pressure off his players and not allow them to be "compromised" entering a big game.

Cousins, for one, appreciated the gesture.
"I think Coach Dantonio wanted to protect his guys," Cousins said. "And he's always done that, he's always put us first even ahead of himself. And we respect him for that. I think it was a good decision to just give us a break … and let us just focus on the task at hand and not worry about outside distractions or saying the wrong thing or whatever it may be."

KEEP AN EYE ON: RT Fou Fonoti -- The junior started the season as a backup but now has the starting job because of Skyler Burkland's season-ending ankle injury. Fonoti was very good in his second start at Ohio State, helping the line allow no sacks.

LOOKING GOOD: Sophomore RB Le'Veon Bell is running the ball most effectively for the Spartans. He had 50 hard-earned yards on 14 carries against Ohio State to lead the team for the second straight week.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The Spartans continue to search for a complement on the outside to B.J. Cunningham. Keshawn Martin is a good bubble-screen guy with moves, but still not a great route runner. Keith Nichol is mostly a short-yardage possession guy. MSU needs sophomore Bennie Fowler back from a foot injury.


--Senior WR B.J. Cunningham continues his chase for All-America honors. The native of suburban Columbus caught nine passes for 154 yards against the Buckeyes, including a 33-yard strike from Kirk Cousins against double coverage for the Spartans' only touchdown. Cunningham is now seventh on MSU's career touchdown reception list with 15.

--Senior QB Kirk Cousins continues to climb up several MSU passing lists. He passed Drew Stanton for second on the completions list and third on the attempts list, and he passed 7,000 career yards with his 250-yard day.

--Sophomore LB Denicos Allen turned in the most impressive play of the day for a defense that made a lot of them. Allen leaped over an Ohio State blocker in the fourth quarter and landed on OSU's Joe Bauserman, sacking him in the process. Allen got himself on ESPN's Top 10 plays for his efforts.


--Junior C Blake Treadwell missed his second straight game with a knee sprain, but Jared McGaha returned against Ohio State from his knee sprain. MSU hopes to have Treadwell back for the Oct. 15 Michigan game, though he may not get his starting job back from redshirt freshman Travis Jackson.

--Sophomore WR Bennie Fowler continues to be a non-factor with a foot injury. Fowler was said to be a game-time decision but did not travel or dress. The Spartans still expect him to play this season, perhaps in the Oct. 15 Michigan game after a two-week break.

--Junior DE Tyler Hoover did not dress for the fourth straight game because of a back/rib injury. Hoover is expected to return against Michigan.

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