Friday, September 7, 2012

Q&A with Detroit Free Press' Joe Rexrode

Here is a Q & A with Joe Rexrode, Michigan State football beat writer for The Detroit Free Press. I asked him questions as well, which can be found on his blog here.

1. With the Spartans opening up against Boise State and having Notre Dame on the docket in week three, is there any chance of Michigan State looking past its little trip to Mt. Pleasant? Or are the BCS game aspirations going to keep them focused against a team they are heavily favored against?

It's impossible to say for sure, but MSU certainly is caught between big games here. And a 45-7 win over CMU a year ago is the prevailing memory this team has of the Chippewas -- most of these Spartans had nothing to do with the 2009 home loss to Dan LeFevour and Co. That said, I'm guessing the atmosphere will actually serve to help them fight complacency. It will pump up the Chippewas but it may also remind the Spartans that they need to play. This team seems pretty focused overall and has good leadership.

2. How do you think Andrew Maxwell performed in week one? Was it a case of him shaking off some rust after throwing only 26 game passes since high school or could Michigan State have issues at the quarterback position?

I think MSU is in good shape at the position with Maxwell. He fought through some mistakes -- though only one of his three picks was purely his fault -- and played well in the fourth quarter. He threw the ball well for most of the night. Now if you want to ask if MSU has issues in the passing game, I'll pause on that. Maxwell and his receivers need to improve their chemistry, and quickly.

3. Dan Enos said Wednesday that he would not be shocked if Le'veon Bell had another 44 carries Saturday. Is there any conceivable way Mark Dantonio would allow his star running back to touch the ball that many times two weeks in a row?

If this is a close game, sure. If Bell is running like he did the other night, MSU is struggling to pass it and CMU is hanging around, I'm sure Dantonio will take everything Bell has to give. I'm sure he'd much rather give him about 20 carries, win big and let his backups get some work.

4. Is Michigan State's defense as good as advertised or did it appear better than it really is because of Boise State's issues offensively?

Well, we knew MSU's defense would be good this season -- nine starters back from a defense that ranked No. 6 in total defense in 2011. Will it be great? Two big questions are at defensive tackle and free safety, and Micajah Reynolds and Jairus Jones both looked good in those respective roles last week. Boise State was breaking in a new quarterback but was proven everywhere else, and MSU's defense gave up two short field-goal drives. The evidence we have so far tells us very good, chance to be great.

5. Where is Michigan State's biggest vulnerability in your mind? Where is an area Central Michigan could attempt to exploit and possibly have success with?

Biggest vulnerability, I have to go back to the passing game. MSU struggled to protect Maxwell at times and there were miscues in the aerial attack. So if I'm CMU, I stack the box against Bell, I gamble with a lot of blitzing, I try to force MSU into passing situations and I hope I don't get burned on the back end. With those safeties, I know I've got experience downfield. Swarm the run, get some sacks, get some turnovers and bank on Maxwell and his receivers not making me pay.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mark Dantonio conference call

While I was at the CMU Sideliners luncheon, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio had his weekly conference call. I planned on listening upon returning, but thanks goes to The Oakland Press' Drew Ellis as he has provided it for me.

Mark Dantonio
On heading to Mt. Pleasant to play CMU in what is billed as their biggest home game in history
I think it is going to be a historic event up there. We are looking forward to that opportunity. As far as them getting ready to play us and us getting ready to play them, there is a history here. They beat us in ’09 so there is a history here of us having to play and play well to come away with a win. I am sure (CMU) is going to be very excited and I am sure they are going to play very well and play very excitedly. We need to be able to match that enthusiasm and execute as well.
His overall thoughts on traveling to places like CMU, WMU and EMU as part of this in-state series agreement
To me, we wanted to do something for the commerce of the state of Michigan by doing this series. I thought it was a positive thing for us to do to be able to reach out to other programs in the state and other communities in this state. That is why we did it. The other factor, to me, that came into this was I knew we’d have a new starting quarterback. If we are going to play an away game at some point, I would rather it be 60 miles up the road in this state, in terms of being our first away game. We will learn from these things.
On Andrew Maxwell’s performance Friday
He was calm and collected and he showed great leadership skills. He had to handle some adversity, which is always key, and how you respond after that. I thought he threw the ball pretty decisively. He had some drops out on the field and there were a couple tipped passes that went away and were picked off. But, I thought he played well, especially for his first time out in a major media event or a nationally televised game, and also with Boise State and some of the things they were doing. There is no question we can improve. But, I liked what I saw when I looked into his eyes and who he was as a young man and a competitor, and the resiliency he showed and the nature he showed in terms of his leadership abilities.
On how the defense was able to react to different situations in Friday’s game
I think the situations we are talking about here is the ability to play after an interception, play in the red zone and be able to limit (Boise State) to a field goal. When the ball gets down to the 4-yard line, to be able to play great goal-line defense. To be able to adjust to the speed of the game and the different formations and what they are doing. To show leadership coming out in the second half and get our football team turned in a different direction.
On margin of victory and what it means in college football today
I guess the only thing I would say there is they all count one, as coach Perles would say when he was here. They all count one. We feel fortunate to have won and the way we won the other night. That is what is important to me, in terms of how we perform and we move ahead. I am not really looking around the country and saying “wow, this is going on or that is going on.” Everybody takes care of their own program.
On what he sees in Dan Enos as a head coach and what he is doing with the CMU program
I know Coach Enos. Obviously he was in our program here and he also played here, so he knows the core of our players and he knows what Michigan State is about. When you become a head football coach and bring your own program into place, there is transition. You make your way through it. There is going to be problems everywhere you turn. There are always problems if you are here, there or somewhere else. I think the key to every leader is how you perform under adversity. I think he is doing that. I think he is performing. Based on what I saw the first game, they played extremely well and ran the ball very well. They look like they have a good football team.
How is Le’Veon Bell feeling after carrying the ball 44 times on Friday
He is feeling great. He is dressing today. There is no more bumps and bruises than he would normally have. If anything, it creates some excitement for him that he was able to do that. It builds even more confidence for him. We are always going to ride the hot back here. Whoever is hot, whoever is making the yards, that is who we are going to ride. That is what we’ve always done here. We need to be effective and just sort of go with the flow in that situation. It’s not like we don’t have other running backs. We have a number of other guys that can make plays as well. It just depends on how everyone is performing in the game.