East Lansing — As dominant as the Michigan State defense was Saturday, there was one player who stood out — defensive end Shilique Calhoun.
The sophomore had already proven himself this season, coming into the showdown against Michigan with four sacks, eight tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hurries. He also had three touchdowns in the first two weeks.
In Michigan State's 29-6 victory at Spartan Stadium on Saturday, Calhoun kept piling on, adding 2.5 more sacks, a half-tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries. He didn't score this week, but his plays were impressive just the same.
"He's elite; there's no doubt about that," defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. "It really helps out your four-man pressure. When you have a guy that can make something happen on every play you don't feel like you have to bring the house on every play. Julian Peterson was in the locker room afterwards, and that's the kind of guys he looks like. He's a great player."
Peterson starred at Michigan State in the late 1990s before going on to the NFL, and it appears Calhoun is on the same track. He leads the Big Ten with 6.5 sacks and his 11 tackles for loss are tied for second with teammate Denicos Allen.
It didn't take long for Calhoun to flex his muscle against Michigan, recording sacks on each of the Wolverines' first three drives. He teamed with Allen to halt the Wolverines' opening drive and force a field goal, and his sack on the second drive forced a punt.
On Michigan's third drive, Calhoun got to quarterback Devin Gardner on second down, then linebacker Ed Davis dropped Gardner on third down, forcing another punt.
"We came out ready to punch them in the mouth," Calhoun said. "That's the type of defense we want to have and the type of offense we want to have. I feel like we were able to get in the backfield and wreak havoc in their backfield. You could see as the game went on, the wear and tear you could see. (Gardner) was like, 'OK, I don't know where they're coming from, I've got to figure something out.' Fortunately he wasn't able to figure it out and we were able to be successful."
Early in the week, Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan praised the play of Calhoun. Despite Calhoun's production Saturday, Lewan didn't sound as ready to compliment his opponent.
"He is not," Lewan said when asked if Calhoun was tough to block. "They only put him on me a couple of times. I really didn't have a problem with him at all."
Whether Lewan did or not can be seen on the film, but what can't be argued is the fact Calhoun has been a menace to almost every team the Spartans have played this season.
"I guess so," Calhoun said when asked if the Michigan State defense bullied the Wolverines. "If you say that, I'll take that. But I'd say we dominated. We were very successful at stopping the run and at trying to contain Gardner. I'll leave it at that."
And it will be up to the rest of the Big Ten to figure out how to handle Calhoun, even if Lewan disagrees.