Narduzzi: OSU 'stole' MSU defense en route to national title

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Pat Narduzzi

When you put together a defense that is among the best in the nation, it's no surprise that others will look and see what makes that defense so productive.

At Michigan State, that has been the case, and much of that credit goes to former defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Now the head coach at Pittsburgh, Narduzzi said that even Ohio State snatched the Spartans' game plan on its way to a national title last season.

In his mind, it makes sense, as college teams try to find ways to best defend spread offenses.

"Ohio State is facing the same problem because they stole our defense," Narduzzi said on the Griff and Grinz show on 92.1 FM in Lansing. "There's a lot of teams throughout the country, you go watch them, they are exactly us, whether they admit it or not, they are exactly us and they weren't before.

"So, they won a national championship with the defense, so it's the same (thing), it's the same stuff you are looking at, and it's run-pass conflicts, but everyone does that, whether it's Purdue or Baylor, that's what people want to try to do to you."

Ohio State had trouble solving that defense in Urban Meyer's first two meetings with the Spartans – a 17-16 win in 2012 and then losing to MSU in the Big Ten title game, 34-24, in 2013. But it started to figure it out last year in a 49-37 win before going on to the national championship.

But the defensive philosophy was the same Michigan State has used, even in the Cotton Bowl win over Baylor when the Bears scored 41 points.

"In the end your philosophy is to stop the run," Narduzzi said. "Baylor was lined up and they could throw it all they want, and do all the run-pass conflicts. But really, it was run conflicts that weren't runs, and they were minus-20 yards rushing.

"When you make a team one-dimensional, as I've said for eight years, you have a chance to win. That was probably the second-most important win just because they threw for so many yards. But we talked to our kids all the time, 'If they can't run the ball they can't win.' It was just another shot of evidence as far as what we believe."