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Film reveals Bullough as unsung hero in MSU win

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Riley Bullough (30) helps wrap up Ezekiel Elliott during MSU's win over Ohio State on Saturday.

East Lansing – As Michigan State's coaches went over the film of last week's victory over Ohio State, there was one play that stood out.

It wasn't a touchdown or as momentous as the winning field goal. It was simply a linebacker doing exactly what he had been instructed to do, and in the process, turned back one of the most dynamic playmakers on the field and forced Ohio State to punt.

When Riley Bullough contained the edge on Braxton Miller near the Ohio State 10-yard line with less than five minutes to play, it was as big as any play in the game.

Bullough didn't make the tackle, but he cut off the speedy Miller as linebacker Darien Harris and safety Demetrious Cox corralled Miller to the ground.

"That was one of the biggest unsung plays that nobody is talking about except the guys in the defensive room," linebacker coach Mark Snyder said Wednesday. "That was a big-time, heads-up play. There was nobody out there, and he is running on the reverse, the jet. There was a little bunch set and the guy came and blocked him.

"We do a drill that is Coach Dantonio's drill that I had never seen until I got here -- the shock the edge drill. And Riley shocked the edge and recaptured the edge and all the bodies were back inside. That was huge. We had good laughs about that one."

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The laughs were because the film showed, if Bullough doesn't make that play, Miller likely gets the edge and picks up the first down.

Instead, Ohio State had to punt and Michigan State took over at the OSU 48 with 4:07 to play. That drive ended with Michael Geiger's 41-yard field goal for the victory.

As No. 6 Michigan State (No. 5 CFP) prepares to host Penn State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, it will take another disciplined effort from the defense, which is building off two straight solid outings.

"We've got to do it again this week," Snyder said. "That's the whole talk. That (last game is) gone."

Return of Kings

Snyder, who also coordinates the special teams, couldn't have been happier for Geiger after his winning kick. It has been a season of ups and downs for the junior, and the kick against Ohio State wiped away some of the misses this year.

"I was happy for him," Snyder said. "It was obviously a very intense moment, a high-pressure moment. Anytime you see a young person excel in the situation like that – because they brought everybody – I was pretty excited for him, as was everybody."

Snyder also said there is no concern with putting Macgarrett Kings Jr. back in to return punts.

Kings' muff of a punt in the third quarter led to Ohio State's second touchdown, and later in the game, Kings was replaced by R.J. Shelton, who let his only return opportunity hit the ground with the ball downed at the 4.

"We talked about it before the game, the wind was going to be an issue," Snyder said. "The ball went up and a gust came. Once that ball gets above 10 feet, a gust came and blew it past him a little bit. How do you prepare for that? We went outside and caught punts last week, but it's just one of those deals where the wind caught it.

"That's just part of the game, but Macgarrett will be back."

Linebacker plan

Snyder was asked Wednesday about the play of sophomore linebacker Jon Reschke, who got his opportunity when fifth-year senior Ed Davis injured his knee in preseason camp.

Davis is planning to petition for a sixth year, which could lead a logjam next fall. And when Snyder was asked if he'd thought about the possibility, he had his own question.

"Who is leaving this year?" he said.

When it was answered that Darien Harris, the other outside linebacker who plays on the weak side would be gone, Snyder answered with a nod of the head.

"OK," he said.

In other words, expect Davis or Reschke to play on the weak side and one on the strong side with Bullough in the middle.