Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Secondary sets up for fight

Some say theyre young,inexperienced; defensive backfield isnt listening

September 21, 2001
Former MSU linebacker T.J. Turner, left, and senior safety Lorenzo Guess tackle former Oregon tailback Reuben Droughns in a 1999 game at Spartan Stadium. —

When MSU’s secondary runs through Notre Dame Stadium’s south tunnel Saturday, “Touchdown Jesus” will greet them from the north.

But if the inexperienced group can’t handle the Irish’s passing attack and gets burned by scampering receivers, the biblical mural won’t be much of a friendly sight.

A barrage of long outs and playaction passes are expected early from the Irish, MSU defensive coordinator Bill Miller said.

“I think it’s going to be bombs away,” he said. “… Our guys better be ready.”

Notre Dame’s two-headed monster at quarterback - Matt LoVecchio and Carlyle Holiday- could take turns running the helm early in the game.

“I think we’ll see both of them,” Miller said. “You have to just prepare for everything that they do. You have different strengths with each kid … you better have everyone covered.”

LoVecchio is known for being more of a drop-back passer, and Holiday has the reputation of being more of an elusive runner against pressure.

Throw in the big-play capability of receiver Javin Hunter, who averaged 19.7 yards per catch in 2000, and the recipe could be deadly.

Saturday can’t be the time for MSU’s secondary to get passive.

“We have to play MSU football - aggressive football right up to the line (of scrimmage),” senior cornerback DeMario Suggs said. “I don’t think they’ve really seen physical corners. So if we are physical and get a good jam on them I think we’ll be all right.”

An early surprise for MSU’s secondary has been the play of redshirt freshman cornerback Jason Harmon.

He played coverages well in the Spartans’ 35-21 win against Central Michigan on Sept. 8, and had a bone-crunching hit on tailback Robbie Mixon that knocked him out of the game.

The play earned him praise among his teammates and coaches.

“I knew I had it in me the whole time,” Harmon said about the hit. “I’m young, and I finally got my chance to go out there and show that I could do something like that. I feel like my teammates trust me a little more to get the job done.”

Harmon said the idea of playing the Irish on national TV is motivation for the secondary.

“It pumps us up even more,” he said. “We have to come out focused and stick with the fundamentals. This gives us more passion to play against them.”

Harmon and the rest of MSU’s young defense will have to learn quickly, Miller said.

“This whole season is going to be a teaching period,” he said. “It’s a new day every day for some of these guys. That’s from the back end (of the defense) to the front end, the whole deal.”

Suggs and safety Lorenzo Guess are the only seniors in the secondary who appeared in all of MSU’s 11 games in 2000.

But the label on the secondary of being “young and inexperienced” doesn’t seem to bother Suggs.

“It’s acceptable, I can see where people are coming from with that,” he said. “It just makes us want to come out and prove ourselves. That’s what we’re going to try to do Saturday.”

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