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Grinz on Green Blog: Spartan Defense Dominates Fourth Quarter

Sept. 26, 2015

By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist | @GrinzOnGreen

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Nevermind how well things turned out for Michigan State in its 30-10 victory against Central Michigan with middle linebacker Riley Bullough sitting out the first half.

There is absolutely no chance head coach Mark Dantonio will intentionally keep Bullough under wraps in the opening two quarters of Big Ten play against Purdue next Saturday in Spartan Stadium.

Bullough was suspended by the NCAA for a targeting foul called on him when he accidentally made a helmet-to-helmet hit a week earlier against Air Force. After going through pre-game warmups, Bullough had to leave the field and he watched the first half on television in the Coach Dantonio’s locker room.

“It was a little bit different, but on the positive side I was able to watch it on TV and kind of see from a bird’s-eye view what Central was doing, so that kind of helped me in a way,” Bullough said. “I was in warmups in the beginning, all ready to go, and then when they went out I kind of hung back.

“I had to cool down a little bit and then I had to hype myself back up right before halftime, which I did. I was calm because I knew I had to wait the whole half. I was just relaxed and watching the game with a couple of our (strength) coaches. Once it started getting closer to halftime, I put my headphones in and got geared up again. Once the guys came in, it was just like normal.”

While back-up Shane Jones played well in his first career start, the Spartans’ overall defensive performance wasn’t exactly must-see TV.

The Chippewas converted six-of-nine third-down situations, including two third-and-10s and two third-and-11s, and trailed 17-7 at halftime. After Bullough returned, Central Michigan was 1-for-6 on third down in the second half. The Spartans gave up only a field goal the rest of the way and Bullough’s fumble recovery set up the second of two fourth-quarter touchdowns by the offense.

“My message to the team at half was we need to pick up the energy, and we need to pick up the intensity,” Bullough said. “I had a lot of energy because I was resting, so I tried to give that to some of the other guys who were working hard in the first half. For the most part, I think we played a pretty good second half.”

Despite playing just 30 minutes, Bullough was tied for the second-most tackles on the team with seven. Jones had five stops, including one behind the line of scrimmage.

“It was great to have Riley come back in because he’s also a key player on our defense,” said defensive end Shilique Calhoun. “He came in with excitement and that just shows that we feed off each other.”

Bullough isn’t only MSU’s leading tackler, he excels at the intangibles.

“First of all, Shane Jones was excellent,” said co-defensive coordinator Mike Tressel. “He communicated, he ran the show, he made the checks. During our film meetings the last two days leading up to the game, he was making all the calls and I think everybody on the defense felt real comfortable with him.

“But, Riley’s an emotional leader and a very good football player and there’s no doubt it makes a difference when he’s in there.”

Bullough 30-minute hiatus left him with the following observation:

“We’re ranked No. 2 in the nation. We have high expectations from outside people, but we do for ourselves, too. We need to show it each Saturday. We can’t come out and have a slow half. That just can’t happen. We have to fix that.”



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