Defensive dominance wins another
Calhoun, defense spark another fire in MSU's win over South Florida
That’s the amount of yards it took sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun upon picking off a third-quarter pass thrown by South Florida quarterback Bobby Eveld to find his way into the end zone for the second time that day. That’s the play that’s propelled Calhoun into the national discussion, earning him the distinction by defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi as MSU’s “running back on defense.”
And most importantly for the Spartans, it’s the exact moment that ignited the football team, assuring a day of subpar offense would not end in anything less than a victory.
Despite another day of flip-flopping at the quarterback position leading to only 265 total yards of offense, the defense again carried the weight of the team’s scoring and led MSU to a 21-6 win against USF.
After another day of relative offensive ineptitude, head coach Mark Dantonio said the team has been embracing a family mentality to overcome the shortcomings.
“We don’t pit the offense against the defense and the quarterbacks against the quarterbacks,” Dantonio said. “People are pretty selfless in the way they approach things. Just like any family, when one part of that family is struggling, that other aspect of that family is going to come to their support.”
Calhoun now has scored three touchdowns in the first two games — one more than the team’s entire offense has scored. It also serves as a reminder of the strength of the team’s defense, which nationally ranks in team sacks (eight, fourth in the nation) and interceptions (four, tied for ninth in the nation).
After the game, many of Calhoun’s teammates, including senior linebacker Denicos Allen, said Calhoun’s speed separates him from many defensive ends across the country.
“He’s a fast, athletic guy who deserves everything he’s been given,” Allen said. “He’s been working hard and it’s crazy to know that a defensive end has three touchdowns — it’s more than a lot of players on the team.”
Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook was given the start on Saturday, ending weeks of speculation and snapping a string of 14 consecutive starts by senior Andrew Maxwell. Cook split time in the first half with redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor, each struggling to strike a distinctive chord with the offense.
Coming out of halftime, Maxwell returned to the starting position and navigated the offense through much of the third quarter before Cook took the reins for the remainder of the game.
Finishing 6-for-11 passing for 32 yards, as none of the quarterbacks topped 100 yards in the game, Cook said the offense continues to make progress despite the poor result.
“It is a work in progress and it is just the beginning for our offense,” Cook said. “We are getting better each and every week and as long as we get better I think we will be ready for Big Ten play.”