Thursday, July 2, 2020

Michigan State defense letting Tulsa do all the talking

August 28, 2019
Senior defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk speaks to the press after a practice on Aug. 28, 2019.
Senior defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk speaks to the press after a practice on Aug. 28, 2019. —
Photo by Justin Frommer | The State News

Michigan State senior defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk has an interesting way of describing when the Spartan defense can sense an opposing offense beginning to wilt.

He compares it to an animal attack. MSU’s defense is a killer whale while the opposing offense is a seal.

“You know, you just flip it around a couple of times and then eventually you just take it out,” Panasiuk said after Tuesday’s practice. “That's just kind of how it is. You feel that offense shutting down, playing weak, not aggressive, not talking all the (explicative) and stuff so that's when you start to feel it and that's when you gotta bring that energy too, then.”

The seal doesn’t know what type of danger it’s actually in until it confronts the whales. It can “talk the talk” before it stares danger in the eyes.

This week’s seal to Panasiuk’s defense is Tulsa University, when the No. 18 Spartans open their season Friday night at Spartan Stadium (7 p.m., FS1).

The Golden Hurricane will bring in an up-tempo offense that Head Coach Philip Montgomery implemented from his years at Baylor from 2008-14. It isn’t anything MSU’s defense hasn’t seen before. And senior safety David Dowell said the defense will be expecting it.

“They’re going to go fast,” Dowell said. “That's something we’ve been preparing for, for the past two or three weeks or so. Also, they are going to take shots over the top when you get tired, especially on the outsides and the slot as well. Really just, continue to watch film … and then we gotta do a good job of tackling in space as well.”

MSU's defense will especially have to tackle well against Tulsa’s prolific running back duo, juniors Shamari Brooks and Corey Taylor II. Last season, the pair combined for over 1,800 yards at 18 touchdowns. Because of that, Taylor carries high expectations from last year’s workload into Friday night’s game.

“With the offensive line that we have, those are great guys, so 100 yards apiece, at least, and five (yards) per carry is pretty reasonable,” Taylor said.

The seal challenged the whales.

But despite their accolades, Panasiuk said MSU’s defense isn’t preparing for Brooks or Taylor any differently.

“Just like any other opponent,” Panasiuk said. “We played against good backs, backs that have gone to the NFL. We’re just going to take it like a regular game. We're obviously going to prepare for them, watch film and see what they do.”

MSU offense keeping it quiet

From the coaching staff down to the players, MSU is keeping its offense under lock and key until Friday night’s game.

“Coach D(antonio) hasn’t been talking about it, so I haven’t been talking about it,” senior quarterback Brian Lewerke said Tuesday. "I guess we'll see on Friday."

In terms of the actual scheme of what fans may see Friday night, that remains an unknown. But, the overall feeling of the revamped offense is at a much higher beat.

“I feel great about it, I'm sure everyone else does around here,” Lewerke said. “I'm sure our defense would say the same. I think we've given them a much better ... not look, but we’ve just been playing a lot harder this camp than we have in the past.”

The transition into a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Brad Salem has been made easier by the continuity from that side of the ball. MSU’s offense only lost three starters from last season in wide receiver Felton Davis III, tight end Matt Sokol and running back LJ Scott.

RELATED: Dantonio: No time to dwell on past, time for MSU football to play

“... Other than that our core stayed together,” junior receiver Cody White said. “Just going through another season of that, getting closer as a group and just knowing what we feed off of and how to bring the energy is really just leveling us up to another level.”

Lewerke said MSU’s hope is to have Tulsa not really know what to do while the Spartans are on offense. Montgomery has said that preparing for what MSU may show has been challenging because of the secrecy.

“For us, it’s made it very difficult,” Montgomery said on a teleconference call. “You go into it and you’re expecting certain things. Hopefully, we’ve pinpointed the right things and our defense is really ready to be able to attack whatever it is they (MSU) throw at us.”

So in that aspect, keeping “hush-hush” before Friday night falls in MSU’s favor.

But without seeing it, how can we believe MSU’s offense will actually be any different? Well, because White told us.

“Because I said so,” he said.

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