In one breath, Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini says what makes Michigan State’s offense works so well is they take what their opposition gives them. Their big offensive line does a good job of protecting quarterback Kirk Cousins and their run game is pretty solid and they run a lot of screen passes. In the next breath, Pelini says he wants his defense to let loose.
“They’re a power running team. Teams have been loading the box against them and that’s why you see their receivers having success,” Pelini said. “I think if you spread out and start to defend the wide outs then they go back to the running game. They’re a good offense. They’re very balanced. You can talk about where they’re ranked in the Big Ten rushing, but they’re going to take what you give them. They’re not going to try and fit a square peg into a round hole. If you stack the box, they’re going to throw the ball. That’s what teams have been doing trying to stop the run. I think they’re a good offense in both aspects.”
While the defense has created two turnovers in the last two games, Pelini would like to see the Blackshirts become more aggressive. “I want them to cut it loose a little more. We’ve talked about being more aggressive and to quit trying to be so perfect all the time and get after the ball. That will come. I think it’s a group that our confidence is starting to grow now and I think that’s important. I think that’s what we were missing early on.”
I understand why Pelini wants to see Nebraska come up with turnovers. When Michigan State has the football, they aren’t particularly flashy, but effective and they control the clock. They lead in the Big Ten in time of possession at just over 33 minutes. The longer your defense is on the field, the more your team will wear down. If the Huskers are over aggressive and give up easy scores and fall behind, it will be tough to catch up if Michigan State is able to eat the clock with a lead. It’s also somewhat of an anomaly that they lead in T.O.P. when they are one of the top passing teams in the conference and at least statistically speaking, one of the worst in rushing.