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Published: Thursday, 10/23/2008

UM must emulate OSU defense to beat Spartans

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Michigan State running back Javon Ringer, who averages 147 yards and 33 carries per game, was stopped by Buckeyes
Malcolm Jenkins (2) and Nader Abdallah (93) on this play. Michigan State running back Javon Ringer, who averages 147 yards and 33 carries per game, was stopped by Buckeyes Malcolm Jenkins (2) and Nader Abdallah (93) on this play.
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ANN ARBOR - To beat one rival, Michigan has to follow another rival's example.

While hammering Michigan State 45-7 last week, Ohio State shut down the nation's second-leading rusher in Spartans running back Javon Ringer. The Buckeyes limited him to just 67 yards on 16 carries - 80 yards under his average.

If the Wolverines are to beat Michigan State this Saturday, they will have to make like Ohio State and take away Ringer's room to run.

"Ohio State, they have a great defense, one of the best defenses in the nation," UM defensive tackle Will Johnson said. "We just have to get on the same page with what they're doing, just get ready to compete and have fun."

Fun? Defending against its last two Big Ten opponents has been anything but for UM.

Illinois and Penn State run versions of the spread offense, a scheme that always gives the Wolverines fits. The Illini hung 45 points and 501 yards on UM and the Nittany Lions tallied 46 points and 482 yards.

So in one sense, playing the Spartans is a breath of fresh air because they don't run the spread. Like Wisconsin, Michigan State prefers to line up and run right at its opponent.

Ringer is averaging 147 yards on 33 carries per game.

"Ringer is the guy," Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez said. "You have to contain him. If you let him run wild he's a fast guy that's very physical. You're going to have a tough day."

UM's last win came against Wisconsin on Sept. 27, when the Wolverines held Badgers running back P.J. Hill to just 70 yards on 22 carries.

Prior to that game, UM defensive tackle Terrance Taylor said physical, smash-mouth opponents were his favorite to play against.

Taylor puts the Spartans in the same category with Wisconsin.

"Like I said against Wisconsin, this [kind of game] is what I came here for," Taylor said. "We're going to go in with the attitude we're going to stop the run."

If UM (2-5, 1-2) can contain Ringer, Michigan State (6-2, 3-1) will need to rely on quarterback Brian Hoyer, who's been a sore spot for some Spartan fans.

Hoyer, a senior, has thrown for six touchdowns compared to four interceptions and is completing less than 50 percent of his passes. He was ineffective against Ohio State and left that game with head and hand injuries.

Freshman Kirk Cousins replaced Hoyer and played a reasonably sound second half against the Buckeyes, but Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said Hoyer would start against the Wolverines.

"The bottom line is the quarterback needs to win for you, and [Hoyer] has done that," Dantonio said.

NO HUDDLE: UM receiver Greg Mathews wore a red jersey during yesterday's practice - signifying no participation - and pedaled a stationary bike with his left leg only. Mathews has battled an ankle injury this year. It's worth noting that Rodriguez said there were no new injuries this week, and Mathews played against Penn State. Rodriguez said quarterback Steven Threet (bruised elbow) and running back Brandon Minor (bruised ribs) are both better now than they were at the same time last week. They each suffered their injuries against Toledo two weeks ago. The preseason knee injury junior offensive lineman Cory Zirbel suffered may end his career, Rodriguez said. The Wolverines were hoping Carlos Brown (sprained foot) would be able to play this week, but Rodriguez said he doesn't think Brown will be ready. Some scout team members donned green helmet caps marked with Michigan State's block "S" yesterday.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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