Fallout from '07 loss set series tone for Pat Narduzzi

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi isn't sure the intensity at practice is any different this week as Michigan State prepares to host Michigan on Saturday, but he has seen plenty of passion off the field during his time in East Lansing.

And that hasn't always been in a good way.

After Michigan State lost to Michigan in 2007, the first meeting for Narduzzi and coach Mark Dantonio, fans weren't happy the Spartans allowed a 24-14 lead slip away in the fourth quarter and lost 28-24.

While Narduzzi certainly heard about it, so did his kids.

"After the first year when we got beat on a Mario Manningham pass, (the rivalry) changed," he said. "It changed for my family. When you ask what I think of after that game and what we felt like after that game, what my kids felt like going to Haslett public schools after that game.

"My kids got razzed by teachers and kids as well. It was kind of like, 'Your dad screwed it up.' That kind of thing. That hits right about there (pointing to his heart). That'll get your heart pumping. That'll get you cranked up."

The question is, are the Spartans cranked up?

The players said all the right things Tuesday, and after a day of practice, Narduzzi said there are few concerns.

"We practice with a pretty good edge and we try to get after it every week," he said. "I can't sit there and say the attitude was much different. There was a very good attention to detail in Tuesday's practice.

"Every practice I write down from the script if we did well or not," he said. "I either put 'OK, looked good,' or 'see it again.' When I got a bunch of see-it-agains on my sheet that ain't good. I had a lot of OK."

And while Dantonio has made the Michigan game a priority, Narduzzi believes he has the same amount of anxiety every week.

"I feel like I'm not any different," he said. "I usually tell it like it is. I get nervous about Michigan. I get nervous about Eastern Michigan. I get nervous about Wyoming. I get nervous against everybody we play and I don't really feel like I change (with) who we're playing."

'They play physical'

With so much attention paid last year to the defensive effort by the Spartans, who held the Wolverines to minus-48 yards rushing, the Michigan State coaches are aware they need to be better offensively this year.

"I'm not sure we've faced a defense like we're gonna face here in the next couple days," offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. "They're very good, they're very experienced, they play physical. They're gonna challenge us in the run game."

Michigan has the No. 4 rushing defense in the nation and is No. 10 in total defense.

In last season's meeting, the game was tied until the final minutes of the first half and Michigan State was held to 148 yards rushing and 394 total.

"Everybody looks back at last year and we didn't run the ball very well against them until the last drive," Warner said. "So they're gonna pack the box and play man-to-man on the outside and sort of challenge us to beat them in the pass game."


Warner said he expects junior center Jack Allen (ankle) to be back in the starting lineup Saturday.

… Narduzzi said the strong safety spot is still a two-man race between junior RJ Williamson and freshman Montae Nicholson. Williamson started the season, but Nicholson has taken over the last three games.