One of the Nation’s Toughest Rushing Defenses Prepares for One of the Best Attacks

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Matt Mika

The stadium started to rock as the noise from 76, 526 college football fans grew louder and louder last Saturday night.

With an incomplete pass, the Oregon Ducks turned the ball over on downs, which sealed a 31-28 victory for Michigan State.

“It was a program win,” MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said. “Especially when you look at the nature of Oregon.”

The Spartans moved up to No. 4 in the polls, and with the victory, Michigan State has now notched victories in five of their last six meetings against AP Top 10 teams.

Ultimately, this type of success would put a bulls-eye on the back of any program. Yet, with the senior leadership on both sides of the ball, the Spartans are focused, and locked into Air Force.

“We have great leadership on our team,” MSU senior linebacker Darien Harris said. “We are making sure guys remain focused at all times. There are only 10 guarantee games left this season, so we have to have the same intensity and focus we did last weekend.”

Now moving forward to week three, the Spartans gear up against arguably one of the toughest types of rushing attacks to stop – the triple option.

“When you look at Air Force, both offensively, and defensively, you see highly motivated people,” Dantonio said.  

Playing host to Air Force marks the first time Michigan State will host a service academy in school history.

“It is a change of gears for us, so we have to make sure we watch our film, and do our job out there because they are extremely good at what they do,” Harris said.

The transition could be a difficult one Harris explained, which means extra study sessions in the film room and more attention to detail for the Spartans.

Many of the Spartan defenders never have encountered the triple option, including Harris.

“We are looking for new challenges each and every single day, because we want to push ourselves to be great,” Harris said. “We are striving to be great, and this is definitely a challenge for us.”

Last season, the Falcons were second in the country in rushing, and in 2002, ranked first in the nation in rushing averaging 307.8 yards per game. Since 1981, the Falcons have been ranked in the top 15 for rushing each season, only missing the mark in 2013 (13th) and 1986 (15th).

The only drawback for the Falcons is they have a date this Saturday against one of the toughest run defenses in the country.

Last weekend, the Spartans held the Ducks to 123 yards rushing, which marked the lowest single-game amount for Oregon since 2013.