MSU LB Jon Reschke on his play after missing the opener with injury.
East Lansing — For Michigan State, sitting through a bye the second week of the season was far from ideal.
For junior linebacker Jon Reschke, it was excruciating.
That’s because when Michigan State took the field in the opener against Furman, Reschke was in uniform, only an injured hand kept him from playing.
So before he returned to action last weekend against Notre Dame, his last memory of being on the field came in last season’s Cotton Bowl against Alabama.
That ended poorly for Michigan State, and it sat in Reschke’s mind and festered.
“It had been a while since I’d been on the field and the last time I got on field was against Alabama and that wasn’t too good,” Reschke said Tuesday, days after Michigan State’s victory at Notre Dame. “So I was really itching to get back out there, to take that loss and do something about it.”
That 38-0 loss to the eventual national champion was one thing, but the fact Reschke managed one tackle — his fewest all season — had him at a near fever pitch by the time Michigan State took the field against Notre Dame.
And it didn’t take long for Reschke to prove how valuable he is to the Spartans. He finished with a team-high eight tackles, forced a fumble, had a tackle for loss, and intercepted a pass.
“Jon had a great game,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “I think he was the player of the game, no question. He’s active. He’s healthy right now. He’s gotten healthy. He flies around.”
That flying around produced plenty as the interception was followed by LJ Scott’s 9-yard touchdown run and a 29-7 lead for Michigan State in the third quarter.
But instead of resting on his accomplishments, the former Birmingham Brother Rice standout is looking forward to Saturday’s Big Ten opener against No. 11 Wisconsin.
“I’ve got to keep getting better,” Reschke said. “There were some mistakes I made if you watch the film, there were a couple of things that I can get better at and I’m going to. I’m going to work on those and be more physical, fly around faster. Everyone can take their game to the next level and that’s what I want to do.”
The level has been pretty good since the 6-foot-2, 227-pound Reschke cracked the starting lineup last season at the STAR linebacker spot and finished with 75 tackles. It was a breakout year for the former middle linebacker who battled injuries his first two years in the program.
But with Ed Davis out for the season with a knee injury, it gave Reschke the opportunity. He made the most of it, and now he’s in the position to be one of the defense’s top playmakers.
“Those are the expectations we had when he came here,” Dantonio said. “Right now he’s hitting his stride. I think last year he played very well, as well. Based on this last game, he stepped up in a big game in a prime time situation and played extremely well. So we’re looking for more good things from him.”
Reschke credits his extra film work with fellow linebacker Riley Bullough for playing so well against Notre Dame. It was such a successful formula that his plan after practice Tuesday was to knock out some homework then get back to the film room.
It’s something that is necessary in a linebacker group that has as much talent as any in the Big Ten. In Week 1, it was sophomore Andrew Dowell who led the way while junior Chris Frey disrupted the passer. Add in the steady leadership of Bullough and the return of Davis and it’s a group that provides nothing but headaches for opposing offenses.
“It’s a blast because we’re all cheering for each other and whoever is out there is gonna make plays,” Reschke said. “We feed off each other. One guy does something well we want to do it well, too. It’s awesome.
“Our motto to empty the bucket and leave it all on the field and go as hard as can for a certain amount of plays and then let the next guy go as hard as he can. That’s how we roll.”
With Reschke playing at the level he did last week, the Spartans will roll just fine. He’s capable of playing both outside linebacker spots and did so against the Irish.
And with such a big game for the Big Ten opener, Reschke is not about to start feeling too good about himself.
“It feels rewarding but I’m not gonna pat myself on the back,” he said. “I can always do better. It’s a good feeling though being out here healthy, flying around and making plays. It’s a blast. It feels rewarding but I’m not where I want to be yet, so I can get better and better.”
Wisconsin at Michigan State
Kickoff: Noon, Saturday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Line: Michigan State by 5
Records: 11 Wisconsin 3-0 (0-0 Big Ten), 8 Michigan State 2-0 (0-0)
Series: Michigan State leads 30-22 (Michigan State 16-13 OT, Oct. 27, 2012)