Spartans set sights on Big Ten supremacy

The Sports Xchange

September 30, 2014 at 3:36 pm.

Keith Mumphery (25) and the Spartans face a big test versus Nebraska. (Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

EAST LANSING, Mich. — While there is plenty of focus in the state around issues off the field — namely rival Michigan’s handling of injured quarterback Shane Morris in Saturday’s loss — on the field things are ready to get pretty interesting at Michigan State.

With the non-conference portion of the season out of the way, No. 10 Michigan State finally gets down to business in the Big Ten by hosting No. 19 Nebraska. It might be a preview of the conference championship game and will be a chance for the Cornhuskers to atone for what they think was an example of giving away a game last season when the Spartans came away with a 41-28 victory at Nebraska.

“We saw ourselves beat ourselves, honestly,” said Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong, whose only career loss in a game he started came against MSU. “I feel like this year is going to be totally different. We have to take care of the football, run our offense and make sure we make plays.”

Nebraska turned the ball over five times in that game, and multiple giveaways by Armstrong.

It led to Michigan State’s first victory ever over Nebraska, but Huskers coach Bo Pelini didn’t want to pin it all on his team’s mistakes.

“What happened happened,” Pelini said. “You can look at it two ways: you can look at it that we gave it to them, or you can look at it from their standpoint that they took it. We need to play better, cleaner, to have a chance to win the football game. I don’t want to take away and say we should have won the football game, that’s sort of a cop out. They won the football game, we lost, it does not matter how it happened.”

Michigan State will be tasked with slowing the Nebraska running attack which has had its share of success against the Spartans. Last season, Ameer Abdullah ran for 123 yards against Michigan State
This season, Abdullah has ran for more than 200 yards three times while the usually stiff Michigan State defense has had its share of breakdowns.

“Our defense is not broke,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “I know that we gave up 14 whopping points last week, but our defense is not broke. We have been spoiled by some of the things from last year. There’s gonna be breakdowns, there’s gonna be things that happen. What’s important is that we get them fixed and that it’s not happening on a consistent basis where we lose a football game and give up 400-500 yards of offense.”

That defense has a clear priority — containing running back Ameer Abdullah, one of three players to run for more than 100 yards against Michigan State last season. Abdullah took his first carry eight yards up the gut in last season’s game and had regular success. He likely would have been more involved in the outcome in 2013 if not for the turnover issues.

The run early, run often mantra Pelini is taking on is not new on Dantonio.

“I have to tell you that I was at Kansas before I came here, so we just referred to it as the Big Red Machine in my house at that point in time,” he said.

NOTES: Junior C Jack Allen did not play last week because of an undisclosed injury but is back on the depth chart this week and is expected to play. … Senior OL Connor Kruse played for the first time last week and saw time at both guard positions and center. … DTs Damon Knox and James Kittredge are expected to play Saturday. Knox dressed last week for the first time but did not play while Kittredge last played in the opener against Jacksonville State.