Grinz on Green Blog: MSU Defense Passes First Test
Aug. 31, 2012
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
EAST LANSING, Mich. - From the scowl on Johnny Adams' face, you would have thought Michigan State had just lost its season opener to Boise State.
At the very least, you might have thought the Spartans' vaunted defense had been gutted statistically.
Neither was the case.
Michigan State overcame four turnovers to win 17-13 Friday night in Spartan Stadium in large part because of an outstanding defensive performance that gave up no touchdowns, and really could be held accountable for only one of two field goals.
The Spartans held Boise State's prolific offense, which was ninth in the nation last season with 481 yards per game, to just 37 rushing yards and 206 total yards, which are low-water marks under seventh-year coach Chris Peterson.
As far as Adams was concerned; however, the defense wasn't as good as advertised.
"It's definitely early," said the preseason All-America cornerback. "We've got a lot of adjustments we've got to make. A lot of guys felt like we played subpar, (including) me. Man, we're going to come out there and try to work harder.
"We feel like we can play better."
Adams was burned on one long Boise pass completion, but had a couple of key tackles, including one for minus-6 yards, in the fourth quarter. They weren't enough to put a smile on his face.
"We don't want to give up any touchdowns, we don't want to give up any field goals," he said. "We're just trying to be the best defense in the nation. It's no credit taken away from Boise State. They're a good team, a good program.
"But as for what we're trying to do here at Michigan State, we feel like we played subpar."
The Broncos cut MSU's first-quarter lead to 7-3 on a 16-yard drive that started at the Spartan 22-yard line after an interception. Boise State made it 10-10 in the second quarter on Jeremy Ioane's 43-yard interception return.
The Broncos' final field goal came after a punter Mike Sadler was flagged for a personal foul on a late hit out of bounds. Boise State drove from the MSU to 30 to the 2, but was forced to settle for a 19-yard field goal.
Defensive end William Gholston had one pass break-up, putting him halfway to the total he had last season. However, he had no tackles and was called for roughing the passer. He also was disenchanted with his performance.
"That's a really explosive team," Gholston said. "In one game last year, they had 750 yards and they averaged 40 points a game. We came in and stopped an explosive offense, when it comes down to it.
"But personally, I'm not satisfied, and a couple guys in the locker room are not satisfied in our performance. To be a championship team, we shouldn't let them get any points. That's the mindset that we have. I feel like my performance wasn't even average - it was below average. I didn't do anything I should have been able to do, and I'm going to go into practice with that mindset and try to turn it around next week."
Outside linebacker Denicos Allen gave the defense mixed reviews for the way it played against the Broncos' quick-strike passing attack.
"We knew we were going to have a good rushing defense because we practice against Le'Veon Bell every day and that's huge advantage to our defense," he said of the Spartan running back who rushed for 210 yards on 44 carries. "A lot of the guys aren't excited about the way we played, including me.
"I did a couple good things, but our expectations on this defense are so high that to play a game like this is just average for us. We want to be the best. When I go in the locker room after the game and hear every player say I didn't do how I should have done after you hold a team to 37 yards rushing, I'm really glad to know the guys on our defense really want to be that good."
Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi wasn't happy with the defense in the first half, but gave it a passing grade in the end.
"We had some communication errors early I wasn't real excited about," Narduzzi said. "We didn't do a good job communicating with 11 guys, but at the end of the opener, I'm excited with where we ended up.
"If we give up three (points) when they get the ball at the 20-yard line, it's a win, but again, you've still got those points up there. I'm excited where they are, for now."
Based on Boise State's reputation for playing a tough, national non-conference schedule, senior guard Joe Kellogg's perspective might give Adams & Co. something to smile about.
"(MSU) is probably the best front seven that I have played against in my 23rd start," Kellogg said. "They were pretty good. They did a lot of different things we were used to, but they are very talented. They just kind of outplayed us tonight."
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