Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 36 of 55 SEPT. 19, 2016 37 BY BRYAN DRISKELL MICHIGAN STATE RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Michigan State has prided itself on the ability to run the football, but the 2015 offense struggled with its run game. The Spartans ranked 93rd nation- ally in rushing offense, going for just 151.3 yards per game. Michigan State's average of 3.8 yards per carry was its lowest rate since the 2008 season. Sophomore L.J. Scott, who racked up 699 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, leads the Spartans' deep and productive backfield. Scott went for 105 yards and a score in Michigan State's 28-14 season- opening win over Football Championship Subdivi- sion opponent Furman. Michigan State has a green offensive line that had just 33 career starts coming into the season, with all but one of those starts being made by senior center Kodi Kieler and junior left guard Brian Allen. Sophomore left tackle David Beedle and senior right tackle Miguel Machado made their first career starts against Furman. However, offensive line coach Mark Staten has a big unit that averages 310.8 pounds. Until Notre Dame can prove it can stop opponents on the ground, its run defense will continue to be its Achilles heel. Notre Dame ranked 72nd in the nation in rushing defense in 2015, giving up 175.6 yards per game. In its season-opening loss to Texas, the Irish gave up 237 rushing yards. Texas pounded Notre Dame with its big and powerful backfield, and the only other team on the Irish schedule that can replicate that size is Michigan State. Scott checks in at 6-1 and 230 pounds, and his primary backup — sophomore Madre London — weighs 206 pounds. Advantage: Michigan State MICHIGAN STATE PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE For the first time since 2012, Michigan State has a new quarterback. Graduated is Connor Cook, the 2015 Big Ten Quarterback of the Year and a first- team All-Big Ten honoree. The new starter is Tyler O'Connor. The fifth-year senior entered the season with just one career start, but in that start he led Michigan State to a 17-14 road victory over then-No. 3 Ohio State last Nov. 8. O'Connor passed for 190 yards and three touch- downs in the win over Furman Sept. 2. Michigan State's receiving corps is talented, but inexperienced. Its only veteran — senior R.J. Shelton — went down with a hamstring injury after a 32- yard gain on a reverse early in the win over Furman. With Michigan State having a bye leading up to this matchup, Shelton is expected to be healthy. Fifth-year senior Monty Madaris had a coming out party against Furman, hauling in five passes for 85 yards, both career highs. Madaris and Shelton are GAME PREVIEW: MICHIGAN STATE On PaPer Fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler O'Connor threw for 190 yards and three touchdowns in Michigan State's 28-13 win over Furman Sept. 2. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN STATE ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

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