Stellar Spartans defense suppresses potent Boilermakers' attack
East Lansing — Through Michigan State’s ups and downs this season, pinning much of the blame on the defense has been hard to do.
The Spartans have given up their share of yards through the air, but it’s a unit that has kept Michigan State in every game it has played this season, just waiting for a depleted offense to take advantage.
On Saturday against Purdue, it all came together as Michigan State forced three turnovers and held the potent Purdue offense in check for a 23-13 victory at Spartan Stadium.
“I'm real proud of them, there's no doubt about it,” defensive coordinator Mike Tressel said. “You watch Purdue on film all week and it's scary. They are explosive, obviously Rondale Moore is a great player, and the quarterback has been playing awesome. A whole bunch of trick plays and gadgets, they're very explosive. I'm real proud of the guys.
“When they sling it around like that and pass it 50 times, what we've been saying is we need to come up with some big plays following those. We had three interceptions, and one to end the game, so yeah, I'm proud of the performance.”
The Spartans (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) limited the Boilermakers to 339 total yards after the visitors entered the game averaging better than 514. They also limited Purdue to just 62 yards rushing as the focus this week returned to stopping the run and getting after the passer.
It hampered Purdue’s David Blough, who threw three interceptions. David Dowell had one on the opening drive and the last two came in the fourth quarter from Tyriq Thompson and Matt Morrissey, the final one putting the game away.
“We knew they had a good defensive team,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “They have had that for years and this year is no different. They have a lot of good players that are well coached. They disguised quite a few things on us. They changed their looks, and there was movement up front. It was hard for us to block that, and we did not do a good job of blocking the movement. It hurt us and a combination of all those things. We weren't able to execute as well, and the credit goes to them.”
Blough was 29-for-49 for 277 yards after throwing for at least 300 yards in each of the last three games. And Moore has been one of the top play-makers in the Big Ten. He had 170 receiving yards and two touchdowns last week in the win over Ohio State and had 11 grabs on Saturday but it was for just 74 yards and he didn’t find the end zone.
Not surprisingly, those two players drew plenty of Michigan State’s attention.
“I thought we pressured the quarterback,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “They hit the tight end on the deep over a number of times, we didn't get home, but other than that I thought we sort of contained (Moore) to some degree. We wanted to at least control him, he's an outstanding player.”
Added Tressel, “He's going to get his catches, but it didn't result in a bunch of touchdowns, which was the key.”