Thursday, October 21, 2021

Know Thy Enemy: Michigan State traveling to New Jersey to take on Rutgers

October 8, 2021
Max Melton, 15, and his team prepare for a play during a game against MSU in Spartan Stadium on Oct. 24, 2020.
Max Melton, 15, and his team prepare for a play during a game against MSU in Spartan Stadium on Oct. 24, 2020. —
Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State football's opponent. This week, The State News' Sam Sklar spoke with The Daily Targum associate sports editor Dylan McCoy.

With Michigan State's non-conference schedule now over, the meat of the Big Ten schedule begins Saturday with a matchup at Rutgers. The two teams last faced each other in week 1 of 2020, with Rutgers taking the victory 38-27 in East Lansing after a turnover filled day for the Spartans.

The Daily Targum's Dylan McCoy sat down to preview the upcoming game as MSU looks to improve to 6-0.

Q: Last year, Rutgers forced seven turnovers versus Michigan State en route to a 38-27 win for the Scarlet Knights. Is Rutgers defense really that good and who are some players to watch on that side of the ball?

A: I definitely think that Rutgers’ defense has shown it can be very opportunistic at times. Through their non-conference schedule, they were one of the top teams in terms of turnover margin in the country. Obviously playing a Big Ten team is going to be more difficult and they are going to be more secure with the ball, but I think Rutgers definitely has a chance if they cause a turnover early and it could be a domino effect where they cause a lot.

The linebacking core is probably the best part of our defense. Olakunle Fatukasi, Tyreek Maddox-Williams and Mohamed Toure. Mohamd Toure comes back, he was the sack leader last year ... I think Rutgers can cause a lot of turnovers, but if Michigan State holds onto the ball, they are going to have a better chance to win if they hold onto the ball than if they don’t. 

Q: It is not too often that punters are talked about, but this game features two of the best punters in the country right now in Adam Korsak and Bryce Baringer. How impactful has Korsak been for Rutgers?

A: Adam Korsak has set Rutgers’ net punting record three times. He is the best punter this school has ever had, no question. He won the Ray Guy Award the first two weeks. He was really huge in the Syracuse win. The offense really couldn’t get it going ... Field position is so important in college football and Korsak flips the field. He downs opponents inside the 10, inside the five. He really is like another form of offense in a way. He gets the ball down the field. He is an Australian. He is a former Australian Football player. He has that rugby punt style where he will run to the right or to the left and then kick it. In terms of special teams, Rutgers often has the advantage and Adam Korsak is a huge reason why. 

Q: Noah Vedral is back as the starting quarterback for Rutgers. Have you noticed any improvements from him or just the Rutgers offense as a whole this year?

A: I think the offense is a lot more balanced. You see guys like, Isaih Pacheco is playing a lot better and then we have Kyle Monangai, the freshman who has really solidified himself in the second halfback role. He leads the team. He’s got four rushing touchdowns. I think Vedral has become a better game manager. He’s not the guy with the biggest arm. He’s not gonna change the game by throwing a bomb, but he is a lot better at reading the defense. He is very good at not necessarily taking over the game with his legs, but making defenses respect the fact that he can run the ball. We run a lot of power read, a lot of read option and then also he is very good at scrambling. I think the biggest improvement in Vedral’s game has been his game management overall. He has just become better at reading the situation. 

Q: What is your prediction for Saturday’s game?

A: I think I have to pick Rutgers. I will say Rutgers 28-24. I think Rutgers does it because I think they are very good at gang tackling. They are a team that gets to the ball very quickly. They do a good job of stopping the pass. Like I said, they do a good job causing turnovers. And I think on offense, they are able to manage the game enough where they will have long drives and hopefully they will be able to keep the Michigan State offense off the field. And of course, Adam Korsak flipping the field with his amazing punting. Definitely predict an exciting one. Mel Tucker and Greg Schiano playing for the title of who gets to use “Keep Choppin.” We will still see who comes out on top with that, but it should be an exciting one.

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