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Freshman Dennard succeeds in place of suspended Rucker

October 18, 2010

In the seventh edition of the Monday Morning Quarterback edition of the sports podcast, sports editor Chris Vannini and football reporters Jeremy Warnemuende and Jeff Kanan talk about No. 8 MSU’s 26-6 win against Illinois Saturday.

The Spartans are now 7-0 and are working toward a Big Ten title. The Spartans are ranked No. 7 in the first BCS standings released Sunday and are 7-0 for the first time since 1966.

The guys talk about the MSU secondary’s performance in limiting Illinois to 141 passing yards Saturday and the running game’s inability to get much going.

Freshman cornerback Darqueze Dennard has been a member of the MSU football team for approximately two and a half months.

On Saturday, he looked nothing like a first-year player in No. 8 MSU’s 26-6 win against Illinois.

Dennard filled in admirably for suspended senior Chris L. Rucker by forcing and recovering a fumble and doing his part to limit Illinois to 141 passing yards.

Additionally, he tackled well and showed great ball skills in making plays on balls that were in the air.

MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said Sunday that Rucker’s status still is uncertain for Saturday’s game at Northwestern (noon, ESPN). With Dennard’s effort last week, he appears to give the Spartans a nice option at cornerback.

“Darqueze has always been a guy that, since he’s come here, he’s opened a lot of eyes,” Dantonio said. “He’s a very quick learner, he’s sort of a student of the game type guy, he’s aggressive, he has excellent ball skills and can run very well and has great quickness.”

Dantonio said Dennard was playing well in August, but suffered from a sore toe that forced the coaches to hold him out.

With less than seven minutes left in the third quarter, Dennard collided with junior cornerback Trenton Robinson on a deep pass, but recovered by punching the ball out of the Illinois receiver’s hands and recovering the ball after a 39-yard gain.

Earlier in the game, Dennard tackled an Illinois runner in the backfield and finished with five tackles.

“I was anxious since Monday when they told me I was going to play,” Dennard said after the game. “It feels good to be a part of this great defense.”

His teammates agreed. With true freshman safety Isaiah Lewis also contributing Saturday, the Spartans feel good about their secondary for coming seasons.

“I expect the best out of him and he performed well,” senior linebacker Greg Jones said about Dennard after the game. “He didn’t seem nervous (and) I could tell he was more prepared.”

BCS standings released

Released Sunday night, MSU was ranked No. 7 in the first BCS standings of the season.

The No. 7 ranking is the Spartans’ highest BCS ranking ever. It is the highest since Dec. 5, 1999, when they were No. 9. Despite hoping his team is respected nationally, Dantonio said he only is thinking about Northwestern.

“It’s nice for everybody to do I guess, but we need to continue to focus on the task at hand,” Dantonio said of the standings release. “I’m going to watch Northwestern. That’s the only thing that can help us get better right now.”

Celek out for season

Dantonio said injured junior tight end Garrett Celek underwent season-ending shoulder surgery following an injury he suffered Sept. 11 against Florida Atlantic.

Celek missed the first three games of last season because of a shoulder injury. With sophomore Dion Sims serving a suspension, the Spartans have relied on senior Charlie Gantt and junior Brian Linthicum.

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