Know Thy Enemy is a Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State's opponent. This week, The State News' football beat writer Nick Lundberg spoke with football beat writer Andrew Cornelius of The Minnesota Daily ahead of Saturday's Minnesota-Michigan State game.
After experiencing the worst home loss in program history to the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines last weekend, Michigan State football is looking to bounce back against a Big Ten West foe in the four-win Golden Gophers. Kick-off is set for 3:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network.
Q: Coming off a big win against a ranked Iowa team, what is the vibe around the program right now?
A: "Coach (P.J.) Fleck has voiced in his postgame press conference that this team has been through a full season in the first seven games now,” Cornelius said. “The ups and downs, like having the tough game where they won on a field goal against Nebraska, having a game like Iowa where it ends in a two point difference and where Kaliakmanis only throws for 126, but the defense only allowed two yards in the second half. So just the fight in this team isn't going to let them have a letdown game after a big win like this.”
Q: Like the second half against Iowa, the defense has seemed to be a strong point this season. What has stood out on that side of the ball?
A: “The defense has shown this year that they can stop whatever the opponent does really well,” Cornelius said. “They forced Deacon Hill to pass the ball, and they ended with 127 total yards on 116 yards passing but only 11 on the ground. So they really forced Iowa to air the ball out, and after that first drive they only had 47 or 57 yards of total offense for the rest of the game. They're able to stop the pass. They have nine interceptions on the season, that's near the top of the country and then they have the ability to stop the run and plug gaps with two young linebackers without Cody Lindenberg in Maverick Baranowski and Devon Williams.”
Q: The running back room has been pretty banged up recently, what has that unit shown with all of the injuries?
A: “It's been by committee seemingly,” Cornelius said. “The first few games it was Sean Tyler, then he fumbled a few times and the ball was never recovered on two of them. So he only fumbled once and lost it. The ball is the program though for P.J. Fleck, so if you fumble you're not in good graces. So Darius Taylor got his opportunity and dominated. He won three straight freshman of the week awards. Zack Evans comes in, wins freshman player of the week when Darius is hurt. And then both of them got a little banged up against Iowa so obviously they don’t give us much information on those details until two hours before the game but I would expect to see Darius. I'm questionable on what I think about Zack Evans just from what I saw from the game.”
Q: Score prediction?
A: “Because it’s a home game, I would say 24-10 Minnesota.”
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