Tuesday, June 25, 2024

MSU rushing offense hopes to keep momentum going following promising Illinois showing

November 10, 2022
5th year running back Jarek Broussard (3) pushes past University of Illinois during a game at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 5, 2022. Spartans beat the Fighting Illini with a score of 23-15.
5th year running back Jarek Broussard (3) pushes past University of Illinois during a game at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 5, 2022. Spartans beat the Fighting Illini with a score of 23-15.

The offensive line and run game played a key role in Michigan State football’s upset win over Illinois last Saturday. After struggling through most of the conference play, the Spartan offense was able to work as a cohesive unit and stay strong throughout the entirety of the game.

The team as a whole finished with 112 rushing yards, the highest numbers they’ve put up since they played Akron on September 10, and put up 260 yards.

Redshirt sophomore running back Jalen Berger led the way with 81 rushing yards and flashed his versatility with 29 receiving yards. He spoke to the chemistry between the offensive line and the running back room, which led to MSU’s offensive showing last weekend.

“As the season progresses you start figuring out the guys on the offensive line, figure out how they play, what they’re comfortable with,” Berger said. “I feel like as the season progressed we got comfortable together.”

Head Football Coach Mel Tucker had praise for his offensive line following arguably its best performance of the season.

“The line did a really nice job in the game against a very good opponent,” Tucker said. “Our yards per carry was efficient in the run game and they did a really nice job of pass protection, so it was a solid performance and I believe still that our best football is ahead of us on the offensive line, run game and pass protection.”

The Spartans, now 4-5, need two more wins to become bowl eligible. In order to achieve this, they’ll have to pull out a similarly impressive performance against Rutgers.

The Scarlet Knights are ranked 40th overall in rushing defense, allowing on average 126.9 yards per game and 20th overall in passing yards allowed, allowing on average of 183.1 yards per game.

Tucker had some kind words for Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano ahead of the matchup, calling him an “excellent coach and an excellent recruiter,” and praised his defensive coaching style.

“They’re very aggressive defensively,” Tucker said. “They do a nice job of stopping the run and trying to put pressure on you to be accurate with the ball because they tend to take away what you do best and make you beat them left-handed.”

Berger, a Wisconsin transfer, believes he’s seen that style of defense before, comparing it to what the Badgers brought to East Lansing just a few weeks ago. The Spartans came out on top in that matchup in a double overtime thriller.

“Rutgers is sort of like the Wisconsin defense," Berger said. "They’re kind of downhill more so I feel like inside zone or outside zone more will work with them."

Tucker has emphasized often the need for the offense to not be “one-dimensional” in order to win games. With the exception of the Maryland game, the rushing offense has been held to under 100 yards in every loss this season. 

On the flip side, every win has consisted of the rushing offense finishing with over 100 yards – with the exception of the Wisconsin game in which MSU had 99 yards. 

The passing offense can’t win games on its own, so the improvement made by the rushing offense and offensive line against Illinois should be a promising sign to the Spartans who will be pushing for bowl eligibility as they finish out the last three games of the season. 

After its matchup with the Scarlet Knights, MSU will remain home to take on Indiana before closing out the season on the road against No. 14 Penn State.

Kickoff from Spartan Stadium against Rutgers is scheduled for 12 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network.

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