Spartans down right offensive

By Derek Barichello

Michigan State believes its offense can score points against anyone in the country, and that includes the Illini defense this weekend in Champaign.

The Spartans have not had any trouble scoring this fall, putting up scores of 49, 42 and 44.

The Spartans are coming off the biggest win of their season, defeating No. 16 Notre Dame on the road in overtime, so the Spartans feel they have the momentum coming into the game.

“This has to be a business-like week and hopefully it will be,” Smith said.

For the Spartans, it all starts with quarterback Drew Stanton. In last weekend’s performance against Notre Dame, Stanton was named Big Ten Player of the Week, throwing for 327 yards and three touchdowns.

“Their quarterback is their difference maker,” head coach Ron Zook said. “He’s a guy where you’re never going to be out of the game with him.”

What makes Stanton a tough quarterback to defend against is that he can beat you with his arm and his legs. Stanton scampered for 48 yards on the Irish defense.

The Spartans are not only moving the ball down the field through the air, but complementing it with one of the conference’s best running attacks. The Spartans rushed for a total of 161 yards against the Irish.

Leading the way for the Spartans is running back Jason Teague, who rushed for 63 yards last Saturday.

“There’s a reason why they run the ball the way they run the ball,” Zook said. “It’s not just against Notre Dame or Michigan last year. They did it against Wisconsin last year, they did it against everybody. The running backs are very solid – they’ve got guys who can run the football. Their starter is probably very similar to Pierre, maybe not a blazer, but as we all know, just an awfully good back.”

The Spartans’ offense should look familiar to the Illini, because the Spartans run the same style of offense – the spread offense.

“Their offense is probably a little bit similar. I don’t want to say similar to ours; it’s not similar to ours, but they have the spread offense type thing and one back stuff,” Zook said. “They do things to keep you off-balance and to try to spread you out. Their quarterback is good enough to do that. They move the pocket, so you can’t draw beads on him. They run the option just enough that you need to be aware of it in your game plan.”

Meanwhile, the Spartans defense gives up their fair share of scores. The Spartans allowed 41 points to the Irish last weekend and their passing defense gives up an average of 341 yards per game.

The Spartans want to make sure they do not overlook the Illini, especially after watching game film on the Illini’s performance against California.

The Spartans are 9-1 against Top 10 teams in the last five years, but have dropped seven of their last eight games following their victories.

“We know how good Illinois is,” offensive lineman Gordon Niebylski said. “It is going to be a challenge; It is every week in this conference.”