MSU Football Finds Production In Backfield Against Northwestern

The Spartans entered a week six matchup vs. Northwestern as one of the worst rushing offenses in the country, yet ran for nearly 200 yards against a vaunted defense.
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East Lansing, MI – Michigan State entered Spartan Stadium ranked 124th in the country for its rushing offense at 73.8 yards per game.

Somehow, MSU found a way to finish with a season-high 195 yards on 47 carries at a rate of 4.4 yards per carry.

"I don't think a lot of people were expecting us to run the ball on them like we did," MSU running back Connor Heyward said in a videoconference. "I felt like we were very productive."

Heyward led the way, with 24 attempts on 96 yards against a NU defense plugged inside the top-15 nationally for total defense, rushing defense, and scoring defense.

Even more impressive, Michigan State did it without its leading rusher, Jordon Simmons.

"The second series, after one of my runs, I was just like, 'yeah, we're going to run the ball on them today,'" said Heyward. "They probably weren't expecting it ... hopefully this carries over to our next games down the road."

All credit needs to go to the offensive line; it was the first time MSU received a push up front against a Big Ten defense in years – don't be fooled by the rollercoaster of Michigan State's first five games, against Northwestern, they were excellent.

Iowa only gained 77 yards on 23 carries against the Wildcats, and Wisconsin ended with 136 yards on 40 rushes (3.4 YPC), meaning notable progress was made in the trenches for MSU.

"In some of our previous games, we felt like we were very close in the run game … when we do it right, we're efficient in the run game," Mel Tucker said.

The 25th head coach in school history believes he saw the brand of football Michigan State wants to play on Saturdays, and it's time to reinforce the message being delivered in the locker room.

"What happens is players want more. They want more of that feeling, that feeling in the locker room after the game or the feeling when a team comes roaring back, and they take the lead, but you don't flinch, and then you stay the course, you stick with the process, you execute, and you're able to answer."

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