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Irish, Wimbush should keep MSU defense on its toes

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — As Michigan State gets set to take on Notre Dame Saturday night, its defense is asking itself an important question regarding Fighting Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush.

Is he a “capture” or a “kill” quarterback?

The Michigan State defense is allowing just 91.5 yards rushing per game through the first two games this season.

Yep, that’s how the Spartans look at opposing quarterbacks, and it has everything to do with the strengths of that player.

“It’s something we always say, depending on the quarterback we play, is he is either a capture or a kill quarterback?” senior linebacker Chris Frey said. “A guy that is not really a scrambler, a guy that is going to sit in the pocket and take as much time as he can get is a kill guy — a guy you can take a shot at and a guy that you can come in hot. With a capture guy, you’ve got to keep him in the pocket. You can’t let him escape the pocket because if he does, he is dangerous.

“That’s what we are talking about, those guys that are a capture guy, not a kill guy.”

There’s no doubt what category Wimbush falls into after rushing for 207 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s win over Boston College. That came after 106 yards and a touchdown in the season-opening victory over Temple.

Of course, there was the Georgia game in between when Wimbush ran 16 times for just one net yard but did score a touchdown.

“You saw what he could do this last week, a lot of plays broke down and he created even a shovel pass. The shovel pass hung up and he runs for 70 yards,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “He’s a dynamic athlete. He obviously has a good style of leadership. You could see that they follow him.

“Obviously, you’ve got to control the guy. You can’t allow a quarterback to run for 205 yards. That’s not a good equation to win.”


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As good as Wimbush has been running the ball, he hasn’t been quite as effective throwing it. He is completing 51.1 percent of his passes and has two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Finding that balance for Wimbush is key for Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish feel they can take advantage of the way Michigan State plays defense, which often includes man-to-man coverage.

Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush rushed for 207 yards and four touchdowns in his team’s win last week against Boston College.

“I think if teams are feeling as though playing man-to-man and turning their back on the quarterback is the way they want to defend us, he’s going to run a lot,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “I know I wouldn’t want to be in man-to-man versus option offenses. That’s the last thing that you want to do, is turn your back on an option quarterback and give him all the fields to run.

“But teams are starting to figure out how to defend us, too. So we’re going to have to, obviously, adapt as we move forward.”

As dangerous as Wimbush has been, the Irish are hardly a one-man attack. Junior running back Josh Adams has 443 yards rushing in three games, gaining 161 against Temple and 229 in the win over Boston College. Junior Dexter Williams ran for 124 yards against Temple and scored twice vs. Boston College.

Add in an experienced offensive line that includes two preseason All-Americans – left tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Quenton Nelson — and Michigan State will have its work cut out for it. However, the Spartans have been solid, allowing just 91.5 yards a game on the ground.

“I think it’s something we look forward to every single week,” Frey said. “We pride ourselves constantly on stopping the run. Obviously, they are one of the best run offenses in the nation, so it’s going to be a big head-to-head battle, and we’re excited to take it on. They’re a great run team, a great team overall, so we’re just excited to show what we can do against a team like that; an offensive line like that, and a good running back.”

Michigan State gave up just 67 yards rushing in the opener against Bowling Green and allowed 116 to Western Michigan, a week after the Broncos gained 263 at Southern Cal.

Needless to say, things get ramped up this week.

“Their O-line’s very good,” co-defensive coordinator Mike Tressel said. “They have multiple backs who are very good and sort of play off of each other, complement each other. A quarterback — when he gets in space, it’s scary, but he can also throw it 70 yards down the field.

“You have to be disciplined with him, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve definitely emphasized that.”