MSU's focus is on explosive Indiana RB Tevin Coleman

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Bloomington, Ind. — It didn't even take a minute last season for Tevin Coleman to show the Michigan State defense he was the real deal.

The Spartans were aware the Hoosiers had a fast-paced offense that could score quickly, but when Coleman burst through the line and ran 64 yards to give Indiana an early lead, his status as a big-play guy was cemented.

Michigan State got it together after that, and in a 42-28 victory held Coleman to 15 yards on his next 14 carries. That might not be as simple to do today at Memorial Stadium.

"He's a more complete running back," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "You see him running through tackles and your objective is to shut him down. I think he's obviously one of the keys to victory for us. Very good player."

That's an understatement when looking at the numbers the junior his posting this season.

He is first in the nation in rushing yards (1,060), average per game (176.7), average per carry (8.83), yards from scrimmage (1,194) and all-purpose yards (1,194). He got to 1,000 yards this season faster than any Hoosier in history and the 10th to rush for that milestone in a season.

Coleman recorded his eighth consecutive 100-yard rushing game at Iowa last weekend, the longest streak in the nation and program history. He has a rushing touchdown in 15 consecutive games, also the longest streak in the nation and program history.

Additionally, since 2013, Coleman tops the country in touchdown runs of 20 yards (15), 30 (13), 40 (11), 50 (seven), 60 (six), and 70 (three).

"When you look at that, the statistics of his big runs, they are staggering," Dantonio said. "As they run plays, they run (pass) routes. So you have to cover the routes because sometimes you don't know if it's play-action or not. But when it hits it and goes north, he can get there quick, just like he did last year against us."

Coleman is the main cog to an Indiana offense that is sixth in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 302.7 yards a game.

"When you're running the ball decently like we are, it's a little bit of an attitude mind-set," Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said. "It shows physical maturity and it shows physical development and shows development of your team, if you can play six games and you're running the ball for 300 yards a game that ain't easy, and we are not doing it with the wishbone and running every play. Tevin is a huge part of it and he is a special, special player."

But Michigan State's defense has been pretty special, too.

Michigan State is fifth in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 81.5 yards. Two weeks ago it held Nebraska to 47 yards and Ameer Abdullah to 45. The Cornhuskers average 303.5 yards, fifth in the nation.

Today will be yet another test against another outstanding player.

"He's a good back," MSU linebacker Taiwan Jones said. "He finds big holes, he makes big plays for the offense and he's just a tremendous athlete. It's up to us to limit those big plays, stay in our gaps and continue shutting down the run like we've been known to do for the past few years."

While Coleman will get most of the attention, there is some concern about who will play quarterback after Nate Sudfeld was lost for the season to a separated shoulder.

It was assumed it would be freshman Chris Covington before reports came out that his mother said he wasn't playing. That led to the belief true freshman Zander Diamont would start.

"We know the system that Wilson runs," defensive line coach Ron Burton said. "They have a blueprint that they're gonna use and they'll have a game plan for us. So basically you look at what they did last year, they had a two-quarterback system and they'll have it set for the strengths and weaknesses of the guys they have in the game."

Regardless of the quarterback, Coleman's presence alone likely will have Michigan State focused on today and not looking ahead to next week's showdown against Michigan.

"We always love challenges," MSU defensive end Marcus Rush said. "Being the defense that we are, we've got to make sure we stop the run, and come back out the following week and stop the run again. You've got to be consistent."

Michigan State at Indiana

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.

TV/radio: ESPN/WJR

Records: No. 8 Michigan State 5-1 (2-0 Big Ten), Indiana 3-3 (0-2)

Line: Michigan State by 15½

Series: Michigan State leads 43-15-2 (Michigan State 42-28, Oct. 12, 2013)