Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi's defense has been consistently-ranked as one of the nation's top defenses in the country for the last few years. His Spartans (3-0) are some of the most talented and fierce competitors on the gridiron and seem to have an unnatural ability at breaking up offensive plays.
But on Wednesday, Narduzzi acknowledged there has been one team over the past two seasons that has had the upper hand on his squad: Notre Dame.
The Spartans gave up an average of 25.5 points per game to the Fighting Irish (2-1) over the last two years, while in its other 25 games, MSU only allowed a total of 16.7 points to competitors.
Narduzzi, coming off three of his defensive squad's best performances ever, is looking to end his team's record of sub-par play against the Irish when the Spartans travel to South Bend, Indiana this Saturday to take on Notre Dame once more.
“Obviously, they’ve gotten the best of us the last couple years,” admitted Narduzzi during a press conference on Thursday.
In their last two meetings, the Spartans' defense receive little to no help from the MSU offense and was under constant pressure throughout the two games. Regardless, Michigan State senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who was part of those previous losses, knows what type of battle he and his players have in store in South Bend.
“It’s definitely a statement game,” Dennard said.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly still likely has his team's tough second-week loss to the Michigan Wolverines fresh in his head, and won't likely be holding anything back from the Spartans.
“They know what kind of fight it’s going to be,” coach Kelly said of his team. “This isn’t, you know, ‘Hey, guys, please listen to me this week.’ They know what they are going to get from Michigan State.
“So from that standpoint, it’s really for us about preparing them for the multiple looks and the pressures and the things that they are going to do (defensively) that are a bit different from what we’ve seen in the past.”
One key element that Narduzzi will be preparing the MSU defense for will be senior Irish quarterback Tommy Rees, who brings a different threat to the Spartans' defense from the likes of last year's starting QB for Notre Dame, Everett Golson.
“They’ve got an athletic quarterback a year ago. And now they’ve got a quarterback that maybe mentally can get them in better plays ... and you see it on tape,” Narduzzi said. “He does a lot of checking with one second to go, trying to get them in a perfect play. And that’s to their advantage if they can do that.”
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.