Five Spartans earn Big Ten defensive honors
Despite having a 3-9 overall record and a 1-8 mark in the Big Ten, the MSU football team received a few nods to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team. The conference announced individual and team awards for defense and coaches award Tuesday night.
Junior defensive tackle Malik McDowell made the Big Ten’s second-team defense by coaches and media, while senior linebacker Riley Bullough snagged a spot on the third-team defense by coaches and media.
McDowell missed the final three games of the year with injury in addition to being suspended in the first half against BYU after a targeting call. Like McDowell, Bullough missed three games with a shoulder injury but still received honors.
McDowell led the Spartans with seven tackles for loss and was a force on the defensive line when healthy. He turned in solid performances including 11 tackles against Northwestern after shifting to defensive end midseason. He finished the year with 34 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
A native of Detroit, the 6-foot-6, 276-pound McDowell has 90 tackles, including 24.5 for losses and 7.5 sacks in 36 career games and faces a decision whether to jump to the NFL or stay for his senior season at MSU.
Bullough ended his Spartan career well after injury and a targeting ejection early against Maryland. He wound up tied for first on the team with seven quarterback hurries, tied for second with 6.5 tackles for loss and third with 76 total tackles. Bullough recorded double-digit stops in four games Big Ten games against Michigan, Northwestern, Illinois, and Ohio State University.
MSU’s defensive unit received three honorable mentions as well in linebacker Chris Frey, safety Montae Nicholson and cornerback Darian Hicks. Nicholson and Hicks were voted by the coaches and media while Frey was honored by just the media.
Frey led the Spartans during the regular season with a career-high 96 tackles. He ranked tied for 12th in the conference during the regular season with his eight tackles per game average and was tied for first on the team with seven quarterback hurries.
Nicholson finished second on the team with a career-high 86 tackles, which ranked second among Big Ten defensive backs and 15th overall during the regular season. He started 10 games at safety and led the team in production points throughout the entire season. Nicholson led the team in tackles four times and had four double-digit tackle games, including a career-high 17 vs. BYU on Oct. 8, which is the most made by a Spartan in a single game since 2005.
Hicks received his first All-Big Ten recognition after leading the Spartans in pass break-ups with a career-high eight and interceptions, two for 46 yards, during his senior campaign. He started in all 10 games he played in, and he missed the BYU and Northwestern games because of an injury. He recorded 30 total tackles.