In the first eight plays of Saturday’s rivalry matchup between MSU and Michigan, U-M quarterback Denard Robinson showed glimpses of why he’s been the most hyped player in the country for six weeks.
On the ninth play, when junior safety Trenton Robinson intercepted Denard Robinson’s pass in the endzone, the Spartans showed exactly what they planned on doing to stop him.
“You can bend, but we didn’t break,” MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. “We ended up making a play when we needed to, and that’s the game of football.”
The No. 13 Spartans (6-0 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) continued to use the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy to perfection the rest of the day, limiting the Wolverines’ (5-1, 1-1) big plays on the way to a 34-17 win at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
Through five games, Denard Robinson had been tearing apart the NCAA record book. As the first player to have two games with 200 yards on the ground and through the air in one season, he also is on pace to be the first in history to throw and run for 2,000 yards in a single season.
Saturday, though, the MSU defense did what no other team had been able to, limiting Denard Robinson to a season low in rushing (86 yards) and forcing him into three interceptions.
“We were all over him,” Narduzzi said. “We did our job today.”
A major part of that job was preventing Robinson from scoring on long plays.
Coming into the game with 11 runs of 20 yards or more, including a long of 87 yards, Denard Robinson had grown accustomed to the big play. However, MSU never let him gain more than 16 yards on one rush and kept him out of the endzone until the fourth quarter.
“I think we did an outstanding job as far as limiting them, especially (Denard Robinson),” head coach Mark Dantonio said. “In a blink of an eye, he can score, but we made it tough on him a
Led by senior linebacker Greg Jones, MSU was the highest rated defense Denard Robinson and the Wolverines had faced all season. But still, many wondered if the Spartans would be able to contain the speedy and dynamic Heisman hopeful.
Although he did account for 301 yards of offense and two touchdowns, MSU easily did the best job of anyone to hold Denard
Robinson in check.
And by preventing the big plays, the Spartans were able to force the Wolverines into long possessions that more often than not ended in mistakes.
“They were making some good drives, especially that first drive,” Jones said. “But every time, we got a stop.”
Jones, who credited the secondary for playing “tremendously” on Saturday, said Trenton Robinson’s early interception might have been the play of the game.
“I feel like that was a turning point already in the game,” Jones said. “Without that play, things might be a little bit different
Sophomore cornerback Johnny Adams and senior cornerback Chris L. Rucker added interceptions of their own, with Adams’ pick also coming inside
Narduzzi said he and the rest of the staff made very few changes throughout the week in preparation for defending Denard Robinson, sticking with the base defense that has worked all season. Senior linebacker Eric Gordon, who recorded six tackles Saturday, said each player knew what they had to do to
“We all had to do our job and not worry about somebody else’s,” Gordon said. “We all had to trust each other, and I believe we
did that well.”
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