December 3, 2011

Narduzzi: 'We gotta be abusive'

INDIANAPOLIS - In tonight's Big Ten Championship Game, step one toward victory for the Spartans is to contain Wisconsin's vaunted running back, and superstar Montee Morris.

"Contain Montee Ball, key to victory," said head coach Mark Dantonio. "We've got to stop the run."

Ball rushed for 115 yards on 18 carries in the teams' first meeting, a 37-31 victory for the Spartans. He sat out the middle stages of the game due to what appeared to be a head issue.

Ball and Spartan safety Isaiah Lewis collided heavily on the first play of the game, leaving Lewis' left arm numb due to a stinger. Ball bounced to his feet and didn't seem hurt, but by the second quarter he was knocked loopy by a big smash from Trenton Robinson. Ball was helped to his feet by a teammate, but went back down in a daze. Ball later returned to the game and was effective in the fourth quarter.

His 18 carries and 115 yards were two of the lowest totals in those categories of the season for the potential Heisman Trophy finalist.

Michigan State coaches say being physical at the point of attack, and winning collisions with lead blockers and ball carriers, is a required task in any attempt to keep a lid on Ball and the physical Badger running attack.

But does that mean taking aim with the force that Lewis showed, even when Lewis was the one who ended up getting the worst of that initial collision?

The answer is yes.

"We are going to try to knock the crap out of people early," said Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. "If it's in red, we're going to hit it.

"And Trenton Robinson really got him one time when he went down, and they helped him up and he fell back over again. You want to be a tailback? You want to run it up in there 25 or 30 times? Then you're going to take hits. We gotta be abusive. It's physical. You want to run hard? We're going to tackle hard."

Wisconsin ranks No. 10 in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 246 yards per game, and No. 2 in the country in rushing TDs.

"They have a big, physical offensive line," Dantonio said. "We've got to tackle effectively.

"He (Ball) is a jump‑cut guy and a spin runner on contact. 

"I don't know that can you totally succeed on a player like that, but you have to limit his opportunities and you have to pad him in," Dantonio said. "He may get the tough yards, but we've got to play very well on the perimeter. If you get five or six yards, that's one thing. But if it goes past that, your secondary's missing a tackle or they've lost contain ... we've got to be able to handle that situation."

Michigan State, which ranks No. 11 in the nation in rushing defense (allowing 102.5 yards per game), yielded 220 to the Badgers in the first meeting.

"We have to be powerful at the point of attack," Narduzzi said. "We have to play better up front than we did last game. We just have to be better technicians inside, playing low."

Interior players such as All-America candidate Jerel Worthy need to be at their best.

"We have to understand that it is going to be a rough game," Worthy said. "We may not win every snap but as long as win the majority of the snaps and continue to have the right mindset, we can be successful."

"They are good," Narduzzi said, "so you have to give them credit for being good. But we will have some different things for them and we've got to stop the run."

The Spartans were without star defensive end William Gholston in the first game, due to Big Ten suspension.

"It will help having William in there, I believe," Narduzzi said. "He gives you more strength and power in there. He gives you a guy that gets off blocks and makes plays.

"I think our defense has come along. We're going to find out how far we've come along on Saturday. That's the game."

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