EAST LANSING — Over 72,000 Spartan fans showed up hoping to see the arrival of a new and improved Michigan State offense. Unfortunately, they didn’t see much of a difference if at all when it came to that particular side of the ball. Instead, the Spartan defense gifted them with another dominant performance.
“Obviously our defense played outstanding,” said Dantonio. “Minus seventy-three yards rushing combined with sacks so that’s an all-time record.”
The Michigan State defense finished their night with 65 tackles, 6 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, one interception, three forced fumbles, a blocked punt, one touchdown, and one safety. They continue to climb the ranks of some of the best defenses Michigan State has ever had.
However, the offense managed to tell an entirely different story to start the year. Outside of an opening drive touchdown, which was aided due to penalties, they fizzled out for majority of the game.
“You can't fair catch a ball on the five-yard line or four-yard line — do a great job of driving out of there all the way down” said Dantonio. “Then we bust one for a touchdown and then we’ve gotta call it back because of a holding call.”
Anytime it looked like the Spartan offense was stringing together a decent drive there was a penalty to ensure it was cut short. Frankly, it frustrated the home crowd, and even elicited boos at times (not the way you want to open a season).
MSU racked up 14 penalties for 122 yards — a stat Dantonio and his starting quarterback weren’t pleased with.
“We were killing ourselves,” said Lewerke. “We just gotta eliminate those. There were probably a couple of throws I could have made that would have made a difference.”
The defense absolutely came to play tonight. Do you guys think they took notice when Tulsa running back, Corey Taylor II, said their backfield would rush for 200 yards and average five yards per carry against this formidable Spartan defense? Because they did.
When defensive captains Joe Bachie and Kenny Willekes were asked about it in the postgame they both just looked at each other and smiled before Kenny had a little fun with it.
“That’s just something you take personally. We pride ourselves on stopping the run,” said Willekes. “That’s our number one goal each and every week......so when someone is going to come into our house and rush for 200 yards. That’s something we take very personally.”
Boy, did they ever take it personally — executing well all night long and breaking a 69-year-old record, forcing Tulsa to leave East Lansing with -73 rushing yards.
That being said, one guy in particular stood out tonight (which is crazy considering how the defense played as a unit). Antjuan Simmons, in his first night, with his new role on defense, absolutely deserves some high praise from Spartan nation.
He never slowed down, taking the field and opening up the season with a huge hit on Shamari Brooks for a loss of six yards. From there he was off to the races. Simmons would end up with six tackles, one sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, and one interception. Even with such a big night he wanted nothing more than to credit his teammates and the system his coaching staff has placed around him.
“We’re just out there playing and having fun. We’re all doing our jobs, playing within the system — not doing too much,” said Simmons. “This just goes to show, if we do our job and we dominate all 11 good things will happen for us.”