Know Thy Enemy: Central Michigan wields strong pass rush
Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of the The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State football's opponent.
No. 21 Michigan State will head back into nonconference play this Saturday as they prepare to go against Central Michigan (1-3).
Central Michigan earned it's first win this season last Saturday against Maine with a score of 17-5.
The Spartans will take on Central Michigan Saturday afternoon with a kickoff time at noon in their second game at Spartan Stadium this season. The State News interviewed Central Michigan Life's football reporter, Evan Petzold.
Q: Central Michigan is currently 1-3 this season, what has been their biggest struggle so far?
A: The biggest struggle really for this Central Michigan football team, especially this year, has been execution. You have to remember last season, they had Shane Morris, graduate transfer from Michigan. They also had wide receiver Mark Chapman and Corey Willis on tight end and [Pete] Coughlin, all three ended up going to the NFL. With Shane Morris, while he didn't end up going to the NFL, he still has experience coming from the University of Michigan and he also didn't play in too many games at Michigan, he still understood what was at stake and what everything meant to play at the highest level.
It's almost been like a rebuilding type of year. That's kind of been the mentality mode. The coaches don't admit that obviously and no one ever really likes to do that, but when you have a guy like Tony Poljan at quarterback, who is a redshirt sophomore and he sat behind Cooper Rush and Shane Morris and he got a starting opportunity and that really didn't pan out. They brought in Tommy Lazzaro against Northern Illinois with 6:33 left in the third quarter and he ended up letting it up and ran for a touchdown and passed for a touchdown as well and almost brought it back. We have a quarterback and young wide receivers with a guy like Brandon Childress, he's a junior but it's his first time ever having to take on a role as being the guy since high school … The biggest struggle has definitely been the offense … It really hasn't been fluid and consistent on all bases.
Q: What should Spartan fans expect out of senior linebacker Malik Fountain?
A: In my personal opinion from watching him play in his fifth season and as a captain on the team I have no doubt in my mind that he could be a starter or getting starter's minutes at any Power Five school especially at a school like Michigan State. I truly believe that he would be able to compete at the highest level with those guys … He's just an anchor for the defense … He fought a couple of times against Maine mainly because Maine's starting quarterback went down and then their back-up came in and he was more of a dual-threat type quarterback so they worked with a lot of run-pass type options. Even when he saw the quarterback pass the ball, you could just see him watch the quarterback … He doesn't really get fooled very often by anything that an offense throws at him. I know that's going to be really handy for him going up against a guy like Brian Lewerke.
Q: The team got their first win on Saturday against Maine, what were some big takes from that?
A: It wasn't the type of win that they would of wanted going into that game … It was nice for Tommy Lazzaro to get his first start at quarterback and really a lot of people don't understand about him is that he is a junior and he just made his first start of his career.
The biggest takeaway from that game has got to be the way that he played … With Tommy's ability to go into the game against Maine and yeah he might not have his greatest showing and it might not be the stat line he wanted, but you could still see the energy that he had and the way that some of the younger guys, especially the wide receiver group, to rally around him and fed off the energy he had.
Q: Any surprise players on offense or defense on the team that fans should look out for?
A: I think one guy you have to look out for is Clayton Walderzak. He can play left and right tackle … He's dealt with knee injuries all of his career. He's struggled to stay on the field and stay healthy, but in the game he is really effective and he can open up a lot of different options. The offensive line is going to be huge … It really does come down to the offensive line, you're only as good as your protection, and adding Clayton Walderzak back into that mix it really helps them out.
On the defense, you have to keep your eye on is Mitch Stanitzek, Mike Danna and Sean Adesanya. All three of those guys are defensive ends with Adesanya being the back-up to the two of those players. They are some of the faster edge rushers in the Mid-American Conference. Guys that can get to the ball and can get to the quarterback or the running back, whoever it might be. They have a great jump off the line and if Lewerke takes his time deciding what he wants to do on the run-pass option those guys are going to be all over him.
Other names you have to point out in the secondary is cornerback Xavier Crawford … One of the most impressive things about him was his ability to graduate from Oregon State in three years and make the transfer to CMU.
Q: What is your score prediction and why?
A: I think Michigan State's inability to cover the spread has been their greatest struggle this year. Yeah, they have running back issues and they have a couple of guys who are banged up and Lewerke hasn't been able to run the ball as well, but they have not been able to cover the spread. I think the Chippewas are going to hang close just for a little bit just because of the power they have on defense.
Score: 38-17 Michigan State